It was afternoon of the day after Christmas. I stood between the tress in front of St. Mary’s Church. It was already getting dark. When I saw the two lanterns above the portal and the portal itself, I felt so happy. I was looking forward to walk through it and to enter the church. I had missed this place. It was my home. I ran off and quickly reached the door. I dug out my keys and put it in the lock with shaky hands. Only a few seconds separated me from the man, who drew me to him like a magnet. I turned the key. Immediately, the door burst open and I could enter.
A whiff, smelling of incense, met me. Smiling, I took a deep breath. That was my home, yes. It felt great. But my joy suddenly changed into astonishment, when I saw the two men sitting on the wooden bench in the front row. I knew them both: Father Michael sat with his back to me, Mister Hawk sat next to him, looking at his friend. I could see his profile. I also saw his lips moving, whispering to the Father. Usually, the church’s walls were a good transmitter for noises. But this time, Mister Hawk spoke too softly. The walls couldn’t help me.
Apparently, both men hadn’t noticed my entry. That’s why I closed the door with a powerful push. It slammed shut very loudly, just like I had planned. Mister Hawk turned his head around, looking at me in a way I couldn’t interpret. Father Michael also had turned around and looked at me in disbelief. It gave me a shock to see his face. He was so pale and his eyes were swollen and red. Was he crying? Did he not sleep well? Or did he watch too much TV? I knew he didn’t like to watch TV, so it must be the first two options. Slowly, the Father got up. “I started to believe you wouldn’t come back,” he said, his voice hoarse.
“I’m sorry, Michael. Time just flew and suddenly I noticed two weeks had passed,” I replied and went up to him.
Father Michael just nodded and forced a smile. “Are you happy now, Ada?” he asked, watching me thoroughly. He looked somewhat scared. But what was he afraid of? Of me? No, it wasn’t me he was afraid of but my words. He was scared of my decision, now that I had been with my daughter.
I nodded, answering his question. “She looks just like you described her. She is so pretty and cute. She really does have your eyes,” I said, cheerfully. I stopped next to the baptismal font, smiling. I was so happy the little girl looked more like her father. Father Michael smiled, too, but he still seemed to be insecure. I wondered what was wrong with him and why he didn’t come to me. The whole time, he just looked at me, as if he couldn’t believe I was here. Suddenly, he stepped forward. His movements were awkward. He swayed more than he was upright. Mister Hawk leapt up from his seat and grabbed hold of the Father’s arm. I couldn’t believe that he had to help his friend. But now, Father Michael physically was the old man, he was actually in years. Still, he didn’t want any help and shook off the hand, which held him. Instead, he leaned on the wooden benches and crushed the Christmas decoration, consisting of red bows and green garlands. I still could remember the day we had fixed them.
“Please, Ada, don’t leave me,” he croaked and started to cry. His sight shocked me deeply. His face, his whole body shook and convulsed with mental pain. He could no longer stand upright and sank to the ground next to a wooden bench. I rushed to him and took his arm. “Michael,” I whispered, caressing his cheek.
“Please, Ada. You can’t leave me. Without you I’m nothing,” he begged, his beseeching look hit me deep down inside.
“I’m not leaving you, Michael. What makes you think I would?” I asked. I admit I wanted to stay with my daughter, but I also wanted to be with the Father. I had missed him - his warmth, his scent, his voice, his touch. I loved my daughter, but I loved him, too. I wanted to accept the gift, which has been given to me: Father Michael’s love. Now that I knew my daughter was in good hands, I could return to the Father without having to worry about her. I just had to. It had been such a strong desire.
“The silence here, while you were gone, was so cruel. Only the memories of you and me could help me to make it through the days. When you left I cried. It was difficult for me to get up in the morning. I had to find my courage to carry on every day. My parish needed me. I feel lost when you are not with me. I had much time, maybe too much time to think. With every passing day my thoughts got more gloomy. I was afraid you would never come back to me. I knew how much you missed our child and how much you yearned for her. The pain you felt, I felt it, too. As I knew how you felt I thought there’s a great chance for you not to come back. So many times you talked about going to the monastery. Do you remember?” he asked, looking at me sadly.
I nodded. There was a big lump in my throat because of his words. “I know,” I said. It hurt to speak. “I know I said that. And that’s why I had to go. I had forgotten what I was here for. I needed this time for myself and to think,” I added, reminding him of the words I had used before.
Expectantly, he looked at me. Sobbing loudly, his body shook. Then he took a deep breath. I hoped he would calm down now. I sat down in front of him and held his hand. “When I was with our daughter, I really wanted to stay with her. I love her so much and I love you. You are my teacher and savior, my brother and father, my best friend and lover. I missed you. I just had to come back. It was as if something drew me back to you. Just like you get your vitality from this church, I get my energy from you, it seems. I cannot live without you, Michael. You’re my home. You are where I belong.” My words made him cry. I wiped away the tears. “Now, I know why and what I fight for,” I said, smiling at him. “For a safe and good world for our child and all people. Our daughter helped me to find my way again. Now I know she’s all right and well looked after. And maybe we are going to be reunited one day, who knows?” I said. During my journey back I had thought about it a couple of times. I liked the thought very much. This hope gave me strength.
“So, you stay with me?” Father Michael asked with a husky voice.
I just nodded to answer his question, but the small gesture was enough to make him sob loudly. It was heart-rending. Puzzled, I looked at him. I thought the news would be a reason to celebrate? I guess it probably was more out of relief that he cried, because he finally knew about my decision.
“Michael, please. You don’t have to worry. I stay with you,” I whispered to him. He leaned on me and continued to cry. I put my arms around him and gently rocked him. With my hands, I stroked over his dark hair. As we sat there, I let my gaze wander und eventually saw Mister Hawk, our onlooker, who had listened and watched us the whole time. Our eyes met. For a few moments, we had a silent discussion. Then, he nodded, smiled satisfied and left us. When the door had closed behind him, Father Michael let go of me and looked me in the eyes. He tried to smile. “Forever?” he asked.
“Forever,” I replied, smiling.
Relieved, he pulled me into his arms. He hugged me so tightly, as if he still couldn’t believe me being here.
“Michael, you’re crushing me,” I mumbled against his chest.
“I’m sorry, Ada. I’m just so…” he began to say. He looked at my face thoroughly.
He smiled. Finally, his black eyes sparkled again. “Yes,” he breathed. “Now I am.”