After dropping Olivia off, Ryan returned home. He crept on the steps and as he put his finger on the bell, he thought better of it. Better to call Anthony to open the door instead of waking
Still half-asleep, Anthony let him in. “Wait.” He raised a finger. From down the hall, a door opened and shut. “That’s the director’s room. I think he’s going to bed just now.”
Ryan shuddered. “You’re kidding me. He’s never this late. Did he ask for me?”
“Ah, yes! Man, why didn’t you tell me you were meeting a girl. Was it Annie?”
"No, not Annie. But how did you know I was meeting a girl?”
“I overheard him say something like, someone saw you in a hotel with a woman. Kissing.”
Ryan hung his head. "Aw, fuck. Ken."
Only Ken could've told the director about the meeting with Olivia. Ken in his quest for retaliation against Justin. Apparently he considered Ryan collateral damage.
“What about Ken?”
“Well, sorry, I just didn’t want to scandalize you, but I’ve been going out with that girl I met at the bank. She’s the one I was meeting.”
"Scandalize moi? Pssh. That girl is hot. You wanna tell me it’s Ken who snitched on you? Why would he do that? I thought you guys were tight.”
“He’s forgetting I got a dark side, too." He smacked his fist into his palm. "Well, he's about to learn snitches get stitches."
A toilet flushed, and they cringed in a corner. After a few seconds, they moved to Anthony’s bedroom.
There, Anthony slumped on the edge of the bed and patted the space beside him for Ryan to sit. "You guys had a tiff?"
“Man, shit happened but Ken’s just an asshole. Olivia’s dad impregnated Ken’s girlfriend and went missing with her.”
“Are you serious? Oh, no. But that ain't got nothing to do with you. Right?"
Ryan clasped his hand in his lap. “Y’know, the girlfriend was Olivia’s bestie. Now, ah… whenever Ken sees her, he just snaps. At some point, he just flew off the handle and started hurling insults
“This guy’s just a nutcase. He snitched on you because of that?” Anthony scratched his head. “Or maybe he’s just angry because of Annie?”
“That’s what he said, but he’d initially told me he had no problem with it.”
“C’mon man, are you listening to yourself. You can’t date his sister from when you guys were kids, then ditch her for another girl and expect him to be cool with that.”
Ryan leaned against the wall and spoke between clenched teeth. “Man, I wasn’t dating her. She wanted us to date, but I didn’t accept.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Anthony kneaded his shoulder. “Sorry, this might sound harsh but, I wouldn’t be cool with it either.”
“I know, but she already got even with me. Remember the contempt she showed me with Fred?” Ryan cringed. “I still feel like a fool when I remember that night.”
“Ha-ha-ha… It’s the ego in you.”
“Oh boy, she texted asking I pray for her to get pregnant because they’d try make a baby the whole night. Damn it.”
“Tell you what? Annie loves you and not Fred. Mark you, he’s a rebound boyfie.”
A switch clicked on and off and steps advanced towards them. They quieted, and the steps faded.
“Who could that be? Think someone's been listening in"
“Ah, I don’t care anymore. I’m just tired worrying about the dos and don’ts all my life.” Ryan rose to go. “Lemme catch some sleep. Mark’s sure to summon me before eight.”
“Don’t worry.” Anthony placed a hand over Ryan’s shoulder and lifted his eyes to the portrait of the mother of God overhead. “Whatever happens, just know it’s God’s will for you.”
The sorrow in his voice twisted Ryan’s stomach. God’s will? For a moment, he hated their friendship, which stemmed from shared misery and failure. He longed for genuine friendship.
Actually, love, with someone dear to him. Someone with whom he'd become one. Olivia’s dimples and amber eyes flashed in his mind. Yeah, it was high time he decided his fate.
“You’re right. It’s God’s will.” Ryan hugged him goodnight.
His phone dinged before his head hit the pillow. It was a message from Olivia.
Can’t sleep. Miss u already. Hope u arrived safely.
He texted back.
Miss u2. Just got in bed. Wish u were here.
And they exchanged texts till morning.
After breakfast the next morning, he was summoned to the director's office, at a little before eight.
“Hey, how are you?” Mark removed his glasses and stretched his hand to Ryan.
"Please, have a seat." He indicated the couch. After Ryan sat, he scooted his own chair close. Then kissed his crucifix and placed it on the table. “Well, you must’ve slept late. Your eyes are
Ryan decided to tell him the truth even before he asked. That way, his half-truths would be believable and he’d lessen the damage already done.
“Yeah, I came in quite late. I wanted to go for confession, but ah, as my spiritual director, I might as well discuss with you an issue that’s bothering me.”
Mark gripped the arm of the couch and leaned forward. “Yes, what is it, son?”
“Um, you know, err… I know it was wrong of me, but I was out with my friends--a lady and a guy” Ryan crossed his arms over his chest. “One thing led to another, we drank quite a lot and, ah, I-I-I
The director’s face reddened. “Ah, y’know that’s wrong.”
“I’m very sorry. Other than that, nothing else happened.”
Mark's expression darkened. Ryan shifted. Normally, being forthright and penitent earned offers of help from Mark. Encouragement. This morning, though…
“We’re all weak, but with God’s grace, if your heart is still in the society, you can persevere. That’s all I want to know. Is your heart still here?”
Ryan crossed his ankles in front of him. “Um… yes.”
“Well.” Mark straightened and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I overheard your conversation with Anthony last night.”
What! Ryan jerked. His cheeks warming, he lowered his gaze. "I-- um, I... Um."
He wished the couch would open up, swallow him. Death by cushion! Had Mark heard everything he told Anthony? If so, he must know Ryan was no longer interested in his vocation and was in love with a
girl. What a shame, what a scandal!
“I’m sorry… uh, I came in drunk and probably said something inappropriate, but, ah, what happened at the hotel was just an isolated case.”
The director took out a pencil from the penholder and started tapping on the arm of the couch. “You don’t have to be sorry. Our vocation is a free gift and shouldn’t be a burden to
anyone. No one is forcing you to be in the society, but, all of us must be faithful.”
Faithful. Could he really be faithful? Vincent's actions had nudged him to the edge of a cliff. Olivia had tipped him off. Faithful? Not now, with the Society feeling like-- like a burden. But he
spoke before he could muster any courage from his heart.
“I have always been faithful. It’s just this isolated incidence.”
Crap. Damn it! Indecisive, cowardly, and a sissy!
“Of late, you’ve been causing scandals. It started with cash theft, then you were seen spending the whole afternoon with a female student at the university. Now, it’s kissing in public. Is it the
Ryan shifted again. “Yes it is.” He swallowed. "The bank's CCTV exonerated me of cash theft! How come Vincent's never been held accountable for what he did? I never stole anything."
Mark waved his fingers. "It's the perception of things.”
“It’s not that I’m unable to live celibate. I just find it hypocritical… oh sorry, I-I- I find it unfair, um, everyone knows how cruel Vincent has treated me--falsely calling me a thief, firing me,
calling me names in the office, err, but no one cares.”
“Our model is Jesus Christ. Don’t hinge your vocation on somebody else other than Jesus. We’re all weak, and I’m not defending Vincent. Don’t get me wrong. He has his weaknesses just like all of
us. We’re supposed to bear the small crosses that come our way even if they’re from our brothers.”
"What?" He sat forward on the couch. His hands curled into fists. "What! I've had enough of this. I can’t-- I-- Vincent--" He clenched his teeth. "I can’t belong to the same Society with Vincent.
I-- I quit!"
“Yes, I want to leave the society and go back home to my village.”
The director put on his glasses and leaned forward. “Is that what you want, son? Why?”
“I’m in conflict with myself. My conscience can’t allow me to continue living like this.”
Mark kissed his crucifix. “If you ever find yourself unhappy, it’s because of sin. I’ll advise you to search your soul keenly and do a good confession before you make this decision.”
Ryan scowled. Could Mark really want him to stay? No. Quitting was the right decision.
“Sorry, I don’t think that’s necessary. Ah, I mean, of course, the confession is, but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and have made up my mind.”
Mark crossed himself. “In the name of God, I beseech you, just do the confession and if you still want to quit, come and tell me.”
Ryan softened his scowl. Mark was clearly hurt. Am I being rash? They love me, yes, but...
On his way out, the director followed him and pressed his shoulder. “Son, Jesus loves you. Don’t leave him because of your brother’s weakness.”
Ryan trembled with emotion, tears brimming in his eyes. “Just pray for me. Let His will be done.”
“It’s okay to cry… cry for him. Open up your soul to him. Tell him everything in the confession.”
He locked himself in his boudoir to prepare for the confession.
His phone rang, but he didn’t answer. It was Olivia. It dinged with a message after the call.
I miss u so much wish you were here. What time RU coming?
Yes, he cared for Olivia but it was better not to waste her time. What would he offer her? She deserved a spouse from a rich family like hers. Someone who would give her the kind of life she
had at her parents’ home. This, he couldn’t do, a penniless bastard.
The image of his village came to mind: the cows, barefoot villagers, his nephews and nieces in tattered clothes… These were poor but happy. Perhaps they couldn’t even explain the cause of their joy
and this was the best part. He’d sought happiness in the high sounding philosophical considerations and sophisms when all he needed to do if he wanted to be happy was just that—be happy.
Without a moment’s reflection, he fingered his phone.
Miss u2 babe. Gimme an hour will call u.
He headed to the confessional and came back to the director’s office shortly afterward.
“Son, we love you and God loves you. We will do anything to help you live your vocation. But it’s your decision. I’m not forcing you to do anything.”
He blinked to suppress the tears that threatened to spill. “Sorry, I’ve made my decision. I’m quitting.”
The director hugged him. “Don’t feel bad about it. If you’ve prayed about it, God will see you through. But just know you have the society’s blessings and in case you need anything, don’t hesitate
to let us know.”
When he came out from the director’s office, he found his spiritual brother, Eric, waiting for him at the lounge.
“Hey, why the long face?” Eric hugged him. “I got something to cheer you up.”
“Man, I can’t talk about it now.” Ryan looked at the envelope in Eric’s hand. “What’s the good news?”
“Remember, I told you I had asked a friend for a place for you in their company? He’s given me the job profile which fits your bio and guess what? No interviews. It’s a direct placement.”
Gripped with sudden weakness, Ryan collapsed onto a chair. “What? Are you for real, Eric?”.
© Copyright 2020 reaganwyatt. All rights reserved.