by LJ Frank
The peals of an old large bronze bell echoed throughout the nave of the early 20th century church.
“It continues to work,” I uttered to myself. It was midnight. The clapper attached to the bell was set for midnight – with twelve peals of the bell. I wasn’t sure of the reason it was set for only midnight. It was written into the contract when I bought the place. I agreed to it. It was part of the seller’s request. He or she was a person I never met throughout the dealings that included my agent, myself and the seller’s representative. It was something about the church’s past, according to the real estate agent. I’ve had stranger dealings in life and signed the contract.
I stood in silence and listened. It started to rain. The rain was hard and steady. The drops on the church’s metal roof sounded like nickel coins falling from the sky. It was the Lord’s form of tithing, I mused. The nearest house, the former parsonage, was the toss of a chef’s wood salad spoon away. That would measure about four meters.
My renovated Episcopal gothic like home with its modern chef’s kitchen, tons of books lying about on shelves and tables, an oversized medieval tapestry and a tunnel like stone lined wine cellar – was in the middle of a midwestern university town. A home such as this possesses a sacred ambience even with the ecclesiastical furnishings removed.
It was now a few minutes after midnight. The pealing of the bell had ceased. I saw a flash of light through the stained-glass windows lighting up the interior as if taking a photograph. It was then I heard the sound of a cat crying through an open door that led to the lush garden next to the church. I decided to close the door when I noticed a person wearing a large hat disappear from the garden’s edge under the pouring rain.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the church’s century old wormy chestnut oak door. I walked to the door and opened it not knowing what to expect. It was my new neighbor who purchased the parsonage that was sold separate from the church. She was wearing a broad rim hat, medium length black raincoat and 4-inch ankle strapped boots. Her burgundy-colored lips were thick, seductive and displayed a curious grin. I invited her to come in, out of the storm.
“I know it’s late, “ she whispered in a velevty voice.
“Good evening or should I say good morning, I’m …”
“I know who you are.” She smiled.
“Oh? I am somewhat speechless…would you like something to drink?”
“I just finished moving in….”
“I know…may I ask…”
“Let’s not talk. No words. There will be time for that, I trust.” She just looked into my eyes and then unexpectedly leaned over and kissed me. A deep, long sensual kiss. And then bit my lower lip gazing into my eyes she simply said, “Thank you, I needed and wanted that kiss. Perhaps we might have…a joint communion service in the very near future.” She then turned and quickly departed.
“Jesus!” I exclaimed looking in the direction of the former altar.
My mind began clouding up like the storm outside. I retrieved a bottle of red wine and poured myself a glass and tuned on some music to relax and closed my eyes. I thought I could hear the peal of the church bell. It must have been a hallucination. I heard another echoing knock at the door. I looked over at my empty glass of wine on the table, stood up and walked to the door.
Upon opening I found my neighbor standing there. She had a large leather bag handing from her shoulder. Her raincoat was open revealing a clinging dress. Her lips parted as if to ask a question but instead she reached in, grabbed me around the waist, pulled me into her and kissed me on the lips and then my neck, slightly nibbling the skin. I felt a slight stinging sensation. She then let go, touched my lips with her fingers and in the quiet of the moment, she opened her bag and handed me a loaf of fresh baked bread and asked, “Communion?”