And Now These Three Remain
Written February 2011
Synopsis: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Erica’s abduction by a Visitor forces Jack to confront his feelings for her.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms, Warner Bros. Television, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
Chapter Four: But the greatest of these is love.
The Evans residence was quiet this early in the morning, particularly after the prior day’s revelations. A lot of things had changed, and with every change came new challenges and the knowledge that things could never go back to the way they were.
For one, that change would be difficult. Tyler now knew the truth about the Vs, which put him in some degree of danger if he couldn’t keep up with the charade, but he was committed to fight. Lisa would be there to help, of course, but they had to be convincing. Anna was smart but often blinded by her believed omnipotence. A person with that much power was dangerous.
For another, change led to certainty, solidifying a decision that had been weighing on him for weeks. Jack shut the door to Erica’s bedroom behind him and took a deep breath. He was thankful that everyone was still asleep. It gave him time to gather his thoughts and to find his way back to reality.
Last night felt like something out of a dream. If he hadn’t experienced it, he wouldn’t have believed it. But one thing was undeniably true: he was in love. Totally. Completely. It consumed his thoughts, filled his body with a cloudy haze, made him feel like he was as light as air. The giddy smile on his face felt like a permanent fixture, and he was sure that he’d worn it during his sleep because his cheeks were sore.
At the same time, love was a hindrance. He felt distracted, unable to focus on anything but her. He didn’t want to be apart from her. For the first time in his life, he fully understood the importance of the vow of clerical celibacy. Many people knew a priest couldn’t marry but didn’t really understand why. They thought the vow of celibacy dealt with abstaining from sex, but it also meant abstaining from romantic love. How can one give himself fully to the Lord if he must also give himself to his mate?
Jack had never questioned it. He didn’t always agree with it, but he had always followed it. Until now. Until Erica.
They had not had sex, although his desire for her had been unmistakable. No. They had simply kissed. For mere minutes or hours, he wasn’t sure. Time seemed to stand still as his lips touched every inch of her face, from the tip of her nose to the slant of her jaw. There had been no whispered confessions, no declarations of love. They had not been necessary. She had fallen asleep in his arms, and he experienced the most peaceful sleep he’d had in ages.
He had sinned last night – but what a sweet, sweet sin it had been.
Which was why he was sneaking out of her house before anyone else was awake. He needed to get to St. Josephine’s.
Jack froze at the foot of the stairs. Tyler stood in the doorway to the kitchen, arms crossed, expression unreadable. He didn’t look angry, but he didn’t look particularly happy to see him either. “Yeah, I need to, uh…” His voice trailed off; he wasn’t sure what Tyler knew, or thought he knew, and he didn’t know what to say. They were allies now, and an unspoken truce had been granted. But now that it was apparent Jack had spent the night … oh boy.
“Is Mom still asleep?”
He nodded dumbly.
“So you’re just going to leave, not even say goodbye?”
“There are some things I need to do at the church.”
“Like what? Confess?”
He paused, his expression softening. “Yes.”
Tyler scoffed and shook his head. “So you used her?”
“No.” The mere suggestion caught him off guard. Is that what he thought? That Erica meant nothing to him?
“She’s just some woman you can sleep with, and then you get to confess and be saved.”
“Well, what about her?” His voice rose. “She hasn’t been with anybody since my dad left. How do you think she’s going to feel when she wakes up and you’re gone?”
Jack tried to speak, but his lips moved helplessly. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Erica. While he was certain she would understand his early morning disappearance, maybe he was wrong. Maybe Tyler was right.
The teen was glaring at him, waiting for an answer.
“I was going to the church,” he began, taking a breath before speaking the words that he never thought he’d say, “to submit my request for voluntary laicization.”
Tyler frowned. “What’s that?”
“It’s a request to be removed from my position as a member of the clergy, to be returned to lay status.”
“So … you wouldn’t be a priest anymore?”
The words felt like a punch in the gut. He may have come to terms with the decision, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear. “No, I wouldn’t be a priest anymore.”
Despite the fact that Tyler wasn’t Catholic, he seemed to understand the implications and the weight of this decision and what it meant to him. “But … why?”
“I can’t condone all of the things that the Church wants me to say.”
“About the Vs?”
He nodded. “I’ve been considering this for a while. I even started writing out the request, but I had to be sure it was the right decision. I haven’t even told anybody about it, except you.” He took another breath. No one had heard this either. “And then your mother’s abduction made me realize how … strongly I feel for her. But given my position in the Church, I can’t be with her. I’m not even supposed to be around her. I should avoid the temptation, but I can’t. I don’t want to.”
He laughed, as if it was a joke, but the conflicted expression on Jack’s face made him stop. “You’re serious. So being around someone you like makes you unable to teach people about God?”
“No, it’s just stupid.” He quickly averted his gaze in an unspoken apology. “If you go through with it, this laicization … could you be with her?”
“Yes,” he admitted. “If she’ll have me.”
They looked at each other for a long time. Tyler’s expression was no longer hateful or angry or even indifferent; it was almost sympathetic. “Look, I … I’m sorry. I did some dumb things. All this time, I thought you were the enemy.”
“I forgive you, Tyler. You were just looking out for your mother.”
“And so were you. Thank you for that.” He looked at his shoes.
The expression of gratitude was an olive branch which Jack was quick to accept. He squeezed Tyler’s shoulder and smiled. Maybe they could be friends after all.