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       The Saint, p.14

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  Søren met her eyes for the first time that night and gave her the faintest of smiles.

  “Don’t worry. Someday you will.”

  And with that, he pushed open the door and strode into the night. In front of the church in a shadowy patch of street sat a car, but not any old car. Søren entered the back passenger side and the car drove away.

  Eleanor couldn’t believe what she’d seen. But she had seen it. She knew cars. She knew all cars, all makes, all models. But it made no sense what she’d seen. Whose was it? Where had it come from? Where was it going?

  Maybe someday she would get her answers to those questions. But tonight she had to content herself with the answer to one question. Only you know the answer to that, Søren had said when she’d asked him whose feet she should sit at.

  Now she knew what he meant. It was her decision whose feet she sat at. Only she knew the answer to that question because only she could make that choice. Søren couldn’t tell her, her mom couldn’t tell her, God couldn’t tell her. It was her choice alone. Whose feet? She already knew the answer.

  And the answer was being driven away right now in a gleaming, glorious, pristine, worth-a-fortune 1953 Silver Wraith limousine-style …

  Rolls. Fucking. Royce.

  12

  Eleanor

  AFTER THAT NIGHT OF THE ROLLS-ROYCE, AS ELEANOR had dubbed it, things between her and Søren went back to normal. Or as close to normal as things ever were. Summer passed so quickly that the days blurred like scenes outside the window of a moving car. She almost grieved when the time came to start her junior year of high school. She’d practically lived at church for the past three months and saw Søren nearly every day. Each week she logged almost forty hours of community service. Søren gave her reading assignments from her Bible and made her meditate on them. Even those couple of weeks she worked at a day camp for underprivileged kids she still saw him in the evenings. She’d even made him an embroidered bookmark.

  But time wouldn’t be denied. September came and she survived the first day of school without incident. No fights. No arguing with teachers. No accusing beloved saints of having unnatural relations with seraphim. Fuck, she was a saint these days. She didn’t run away to the city to hang out at her dad’s shop anymore. She didn’t sneak out to her friend Jordan’s anymore. She didn’t stay up until 3:00 a.m. reading dirty books with a hand down her panties anymore. Well, she still did that, but only on the weekends. Before Søren, Elle had wanted school to end so she could go home, sleep and read. But now she counted the hours until she could get out of school only so she could go to church.

  When she arrived at Sacred Heart after her first day back to school, she changed clothes and got her watering can. Søren’s office door was shut, and she could hear voices inside. Curious, she pressed her ear to the door and tried to make out the words. Søren spoke clearly and loudly enough that she could hear him, but none of the words made any sense. In fact, it sounded like he was speaking a different language. Definitely not German. No, it sounded kind of sexy and romantic. Hearing him talk like that made her thighs quiver. It must be French.

  French? Who the hell was he talking to in French?

  Next time he was on the phone while she stood outside his office eavesdropping, he should have the human decency to at least speak in English.

  Frustrated, Eleanor started toward the fellowship hall when she heard the door open. She turned around and saw Søren’s arm extending from inside the office like some kind of sideways periscope. He crooked his finger at her and Eleanor walked back to him.

  “Are you trapped inside your office?” she whispered as she pressed her back flat against the wall by the door. “Some kind of force field and only your arm can escape it?”

  “Yes,” he said as his arm disappeared back inside his office. She faced him from across the threshold. “It’s called a dissertation.”

  “A who a what?”

  “A dissertation.” He sat back behind his desk. Two piles of books flanked him. “I’m finishing my Ph.D. work. I have ordered myself not to leave my office until I have made significant progress on it this evening.”

  “What’s a dissertation?”

  “If Satan gave you instructions for writing the book report from Hell, it would closely resemble those of a Ph.D. dissertation.”

  She scrunched up her face in sympathetic disgust.

  “I wrote the book report from Hell last year on Jane Eyre and the wife in the attic. I called it ‘Jane Versus One Crazy Bitch.’”

  “An interesting topic.”

  “What’s your topic?”

  “‘The theology of pain and suffering in the letters of Saint Ignatius.’”

  “Is that as boring as it sounds?”

  “More.”

  “It needs a better title.”

  “Better than ‘The theology of pain and suffering in the letters of Saint Ignatius’?”

  “How about ‘Hurts So God.’ It’s a riff on that John Cougar song ‘Hurts So Good.’”

  Søren rested his chin on top of the nearest pile of books and narrowed his eyes at her.

  “Your mind must be the most marvelous playground.”

  “I think my mental swing sets are rusty.”

  “We should fix that.” He got up from behind his desk, grabbed his Bible and left the office.

  “Hey, whoa there, big papa.” She followed him as he strode toward the sanctuary. “You aren’t supposed to leave your office.”

  “I made the rule. I can break it.”

  “Can I break your rules?” she asked.

  “No.” He stared down at her. “Come with me. Bring your Bible.”

  She grabbed her Bible from her backpack and made her way to the choir loft in the sanctuary.

  “What are we doing today?” she asked once she reached the loft. “Are you going to make me meditate on Jesus again?”

  “You don’t want to? Meditating on the life of Christ is a vital part of the Spiritual Exercises.”

  “I know,” she said as she threw herself down in a pew and stretched out long ways. “But Jesus always looks like Eddie Vedder in my meditations, and I don’t like finding Jesus sexy. It’s uncomfortable, like seeing a picture of your grandfather when he was eighteen and thinking he was a babe.”

  “I’m sure Jesus would be honored that you picture him as attractive. There is no sin in finding someone attractive.”

  “You said that before, but I don’t think that rule applies to Jesus.”

  “Well, do you have any questions you want answered?” Søren asked, slapping her thigh with a Bible to make her sit up. “Meaning of original sin? The prophecies regarding Christ found in Isaiah? Anything?”

  “Yes, I have a question.” She looked up at him.

  “Ask.”

  “Why are you so damn tall? You’re what? Six foot something?”

  “Six foot four.”

  “That’s ridiculous. Is it necessary you’re this tall or are you doing it for attention?”

  “This is your theological inquiry?”

  “God created you. He created you tall. This is my theological inquiry.”

  “Very well, then. Tall people are closer to God. Since I’m tall I can hear Him better, which is why you should always listen to me when I tell you something.”

  She glared at him.

  “That is the biggest pile of bullshit anyone has ever dumped on me.”

  “Prove me wrong, then. Using the Bible.”

  “This is my assignment? I have to prove to you that you’re full of shit?”

  “Yes.”

  “You can’t give me a good Bible assignment? Like read all the sexy parts?”

  “You can do that, too, if you wish.”

  “Song of Songs it is, then. I like that he describes her tits as being like antelopes.”

  “I prefer the Book of Esther. More plot. Fewer bizarre metaphors involving ruminant mammals.”

  “Esther’s a sex book?”

 
It is if you can use your imagination. Which I’m certain you can.”

  Eleanor blushed. She had a feeling he referred to that little incident on his desk.

  “What do I get if I prove you’re full of shit?” she asked, desperately wanting to change the subject.

  “Enlightenment.”

  Søren left her alone in the choir loft with her Bible and her assignment to prove him wrong. That shouldn’t be too hard. She doubted there was a single verse in the Bible that said God preferred tall people. Of course, she’d have to read the entire Bible to make sure there wasn’t. That would take a while. Easier to prove God liked short people. Wasn’t there something Jesus said about suffering the little children? She flipped to the back of her Bible and found the concordance.

  Little … little … little children … little ones.

  Little ones? She flipped to Psalms and found the verse.

  The Lord is the keeper of the little ones; I was little and he delivered me.

  Bam. Perfect. Easy enough.

  God liked little people. She won. Søren lost. Now what?

  She flipped a few more pages in the Bible to the Book of Esther. She’d heard about Esther but she didn’t remember ever hearing any homilies about the book. They hadn’t covered it in her religion class at school yet, either. All she remembered about Esther was that she was a queen and there was something about a beauty pageant? Didn’t sound sexy to her. But Søren said he preferred Esther to the Song of Songs, so …

  In the days of Xerxes, who reigned from India to Ethiopia over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces …

  This was supposed to be a sexy book?

  Eleanor kept reading. She read it all, beginning to end. There was something odd about the story, something not quite right. Esther … and the king … did they really …? No way. But maybe?

  She closed her Bible, and found Søren again in his office.

  “Did I just read what I think I just read?” Eleanor asked without preamble.

  “What do you think you read?” Søren asked as he closed a book and gave her his full attention.

  “King Xerxes fired his queen and then needed a new queen.”

  “Yes.”

  “And he auditioned for a new queen.”

  “That he did.”

  “Am I reading it wrong or did King Xerxes audition for virgin queen candidates by fucking them?”

  “That would be one rather graphic, albeit accurate, way of putting it.”

  “So he did?”

  “Yes.”

  “So King Xerxes had virgins brought in from all over the Empire. He gave them a year to pretty themselves up for him, and then they had a one-night audition with him in his bedroom to become queen.”

  “Is there a question in there somewhere, Eleanor?”

  “Yes. What did Esther do?”

  “I don’t follow.”

  “To the king to get him to pick her, I mean,” Eleanor explained. “What did she do that the other girls didn’t do so she could be queen?”

  “I assume she was better in bed than the rest of them.”

  Eleanor gaped at Søren.

  “What?” he asked.

  “The reason she was the person chosen to save the Jewish people was because she was good in the sack?”

  “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

  “The Lord works through sex?”

  “All the time. Saints were babies once. They had to be conceived through sexual intercourse. There’s nothing un-biblical about that.”

  “But Esther wasn’t married to the king. She was part of a harem. She had premarital sex. Catholics aren’t allowed to have premarital sex.”

  “Esther wasn’t Catholic. Catholicism hadn’t been invented yet.”

  She glowered at him.

  “You know what I mean. It’s in the Bible.”

  “Shocking, isn’t it?” He didn’t sound the least shocked, only amused.

  “I’m speechless.”

  “Then why are you still talking?”

  “Because I found a biblical heroine who is a biblical heroine because she spread for a king. It’s seriously sexy but seems like a piss-poor way to choose a world leader. Or not. Maybe that’s how we got President Clinton.”

  “In all fairness to Esther, she was a prisoner and didn’t have much choice in the matter—the sex or becoming queen.”

  “She was amazing in bed and that helped her save her people.”

  “I knew you’d like her.”

  “I want to be her. I wonder if Xerxes was hot.”

  “Perhaps he looked like Eddie Vedder.”

  “Do you even know who that is?”

  “No.”

  “I didn’t think so. I wonder what Esther did to impress the king so much in one night.”

  Søren picked up his pen and tapped it on the desk.

  “She was beautiful, according to the author of the book,” Søren said. “And clearly intelligent. The women of the harem were allowed to take anything they wanted with them for their night with the king. But Esther takes only what the harem guard Hegai says she should take. Smart of her to ask someone in the know what he would suggest.”

  “Maybe she didn’t ask him because he knew the king. Maybe she asked him because he was a man.”

  “That’s one possibility.” Søren flipped through his Bible.

  “What would you have told Esther to do?”

  “Pardon?” Søren arched an eyebrow at her.

  “If this virgin girl came to you and said that she was going to spend a night with the king, what advice would you give her?”

  “Interesting question. Priests aren’t often asked for sex advice. Then again, Hegai was a eunuch. I doubt they’re often asked for sex advice, either.”

  “What’s a eunuch?”

  “A castrated man.”

  “Ow.”

  “Exactly.”

  “Well, a priest is better than a eunuch for advice, then. I’m guessing you still have all your original parts.”

 
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