Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Ella threw her mobile phone down onto her bed and stormed into the kitchen. Her tiny flat in North London gave her little enough space at the best of times but tonight she felt that the flat was stifling her, closing in around her. Ella grabbed her keys and ran out into the warm evening.
Without knowing where she was going to she ran off down towards the high street. Pounding the busy streets of North London was no substitute for strolling along the lanes around the villa in Spain but there was no way she could stay in doors.
Ella was angry with herself for not being able to keep her secret from Fliss. Why, she kept asking herself, did she tell her Mum about her feelings for Frank. It had been so much easier when she had kept her love for Frank buried deep inside. But now she had to admit to herself what she had denied for so long and all she felt was pain.
She had known from the first time the handsome young priest had held her arm that she was falling in love with him. Sometimes when she thought he wasn’t watching, she would stare at him striding through the corridors of the hostel and her heart would beat a little faster.
She knew it was madness, an infatuation, a fantasy to think that she could ever have anything more than a platonic relationship with Frank. They couldn’t possibly be anything more than just friends; he was married to the church. There was no way that she would ever be able to tell him how she really felt without risking their special friendship.
Damn it, why couldn’t she feel this way about Paolo. At least if she had fallen in love with the suntanned handsome farmer she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about lusting after his body. But to lust after a priest, dear god how low can you sink.
She knew that she was acting like a silly schoolgirl having her first crush. That didn’t stop her from imagining how it would be to feel his strong arms crushing her body into his, her hot moist lips parting as he kissed her. She longed to run her fingers through his tousled blond hair and slowly undress him. She wanted the first time that they made love to be special. She wanted to savour every part of his strong white body and was dizzy imagining him lying next to her, wanting her as much as she wanted him.
After nearly an hour of wondering aimlessly around the neighbourhood, Ella was surprised to find herself back out side her flat. With tears stinging her eyes she fumbled to put the key in the lock and finally getting the door open she ran into her bedroom and flung herself on to the crumpled bed. Sobbing as if her heart would break Ella curled up and buried her face into the pillow.
Father Francis Campbell knelt in front of the altar and bowed his head in prayer, was all this a test of his faith or was he just a weak man?
Frank could remember the first time that he had seen Ella. It was two years ago. He had been on duty with the outreach team over Christmas and had found 14 year old Terry sleeping rough by Kings Cross railway station. The poor lad was frozen and starving and Frank had suspected that he had been working as a rent boy to pay for his drug habit.
The hostel didn’t have the facilities to cope with such a young boy but Ella had taken pity on him and had spent hours trying to find him a place with a foster family, not an easy thing to do at the best of times but a nightmare over the holidays.
Frank smiled to himself as he remembered her battling away with the authorities who had wanted to put Terry before the courts for possession. It was watching her that night, never taking no for an answer, when he knew that she was special. She was so determined to try and help the poor boy that she had still been phoning around long after anybody else would have given up.
He had prayed for help even then, prayed that God would guide him through the feelings that he had never experienced before. When he had been at University a lot of his friends had had girl friends and Frank could understand why, but he had just never felt that he wanted to be with a girl himself. His church was his life and he couldn’t imagine that a woman could awaken feelings of love in him that were stronger than his love of Christ.
It wasn’t as if he was naive, he knew priests had left the priesthood to marry but until now he didn’t realise quite how love worked. You didn’t choose to fall in love, you didn’t wake up one morning and think, the next beautiful woman I meet today will capture my heart and turn my life upside down. It just happens. You meet someone and know, maybe not instantly, it could creep up on you, but at some point you know that you love this person more than you could ever imagine possible. They fill your heart with a longing that hurts. Your dreams are consumed by visions of their loveliness and when you are apart your heart aches so much you think it might break.
His Bishop had been very understanding, it wasn’t unusual he had said for a young priest to have these feelings but Frank had to work his way through them. He suggested that Frank needed time away from the parish. Away from the daily temptations that seeing Ella brought him. That’s why Frank was praying now, praying that Ella would understand why he was going away and understand why he wouldn’t be able to tell her. It was better this way the Bishop had told him, better to get away before the poor girl got hurt. It would be kinder in the long run if she never knew how Frank felt about her.
If this is the kindest thing to do he thought, why does it feel like the end of the world?