Every night I hunted, doing my job. I wasn’t paid with money but with people’s lives I saved.
January was a long and cold month with lots of snow and ice, which turned the streets into slippery skating rinks.
On February 8th we celebrated my birthday. For breakfast, Father Michael made me lots and lots of my beloved pancakes. He even gave me a gift: two pairs of beautiful and filigree worked hairpins. They were adorned with lilac blossoms. Small round diamanté stones sparkled in the middle of them. The colors were gorgeous and would contrast with my black hair greatly. I really would have liked to wear the pins every day, but I was afraid of losing or breaking them.
March passed and April came. Snow changed into rain. Even at Easter the sky was grey, but Father Michael’s parish was spared of rain showers, when it gathered on the square in front of the church on Easter Saturday.
I had attended several Easter celebrations before and had learnt about them a lot. I admit, I haven’t become religious, but I respected the orders of events at this special time of the year.
The Father had put a round bowl in the middle of the square, where the Easter bonfire was supposed to be kindled. The members of the parish had arrived in time. All of them had brought a piece of wood, which they put in the bowl. Then Father Michael lit the fire and blessed it. There was absolute silence amongst people, while we listened to his words, lightening the Paschal candle at the fire. With the candle in his hands, he went to every single member of the parish, lightening their candles with his. Numerous small flames burned now, giving warm light and shadows to everybody’s faces. Silently, we followed the two servers, who led the procession behind Father Michael, inside the dark church. One by one, the rows of the wooden benches filled with people. The Paschal candle stood on the altar, burning there during the following days.
Father Michael began the evening service. His deep melodious voice filled the church, as he reminded us of God’s work. Nobody spoke or dared to cough. They didn’t want to miss a thing the Padre said. Everybody looked at him, peace on their faces. Only the two little six years old boys, who had been enchanted by their candles and were now sitting in front of me, constantly giggled, teasing their little sister, who was about four years old. Nobody else seemed to hear the noises coming from our side of the church. Either the Father’s presence captivated them so much or they were lost in their own thoughts, so that they didn’t hear anything else. Automatically, I was reminded of my daughter, even though she didn’t look the same. But the little girl was so cute and adorable just like my baby. It gave me a painful stab in the heart. Tears burnt in my eyes, as my mind wandered. Usually, I was good at pushing these things aside, but now I couldn’t help it. I wondered how much she had grown and whether she was putting on some weight, just like it should be. Did she grow her first tooth? Who helped her through it, when it hurt too much? What was going on in the monastery at the moment and what were they doing with her at Easter? I knew they took good care of her. I had seen it myself. Still, I was worried. The impatient rebuke of the mother, sitting in the row in front of me, yanked me from my thoughts. She had tried to silence the boys quite a few times. For about a minute or so they did what their mother told them, but then it started all over again. Obviously, the mother couldn’t cope with them.
I blinked away the tears and watched the boys tugging at their sister’s pigtails, having the fun of their lives.
“Boys!” I thought. Luckily, they didn’t have the candles anymore. Who knows what they would have done with them?
I leaned forward and tapped on the little girl’s shoulder. She turned around and looked at me with big sad eyes. She pulled a face. Her chin was trembling; she was close to tears. “There’s so much space left on my bench. Do you want to sit here?” I asked her.
She blinked several times, thinking about what to do. She looked at her mother. I looked at the woman, too, and discovered a smile on her lips. She nodded, giving her daughter permission. The girl looked at me again and nodded. The pigtails with the pink bows bobbed. I smiled, lifted her up and sat her down next to me.
“That’s very kind of you,” the girl’s mother said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the boys.” She shook her head, blushing with embarrassment.
I assured her that it wasn’t a problem. When I couldn’t hear the Father’s voice anymore, I looked over to him where he was standing, preaching. He paused for a moment to let his words have the desired effect. He looked at me, smiling gently. Then he saw the little girl next to me and he smiled even more. Apparently, he was the only one who had noticed what was going on in the last row. After a few moments he went on.
I looked down at the girl sitting beside me, smiling. “What’s your name, little one?” I asked.
“Sarah,” she said.
“That’s a very pretty name,” I said. My words made her happy. “I’m Ada.”
Sarah nodded. “I know.”
Astonished, I looked at her. I had barely forgotten I was among people, who knew of the church’s secrets and the existence of the hunters. But it surprised me, that a four year old girl was in the know, too. Sarah smiled and waited for me to do the same. When I smiled, she turned her head to look at the Father, who had closed his eyes and bowed his head to pray silently. His parish, including Sarah and me, joined him.
After a few moments, the Father’s voice could be heard and we all listened to what he had to say.
I felt Sarah’s little arms wrap around me. She snuggled up to me closer. I held her tight and leaned down to her. “You’re safe here. I take care of you,” I whispered.
The little girl nodded. But then she startled, when her brothers suddenly jumped up to scare her. Insecure, she looked at me. I stroked over her shoulder to soothe her. Leaning on me again, I saw her sticking out her tongue at her brothers and pulling faces.