DISCLAIMER: Guiding Light and its characters are the property of Proctor & Gamble. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written in honor of ralstís very special birthday. Thanks to cabenson and seftiri for their quick responses to a rather important question. All errors and possible misconceptions are mine.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned um, wait no, yeah, that's it," a female voice whispered through a porous cloth-covered sliding screen, the material just thick enough to distort the image of both the confessor and the absolver. The woman grimaced at the throbbing pain that had already begun to settle in her knees after only seconds of kneeling on the solid wood kneeler that had been built directly into the wall of the confessional. She briefly wondered if the lack of padding on the hard surface was supposed to be part of her penance.
In the center compartment, bracketed on the left and right by separate confessionals, the priest listened carefully to the words being spoken from his left side, unconsciously grasping his Bible tightly as he prepared for yet another strange confession. The Easter season brought everyone out of the woodwork and into his church, one of the few in the area that hadn't removed the old-style, traditional type of confessionals. He was beginning to question his adamancy in preserving the history of one of the more important sacraments.
"Is this where I tell my sins?" the voice asked softly.
The priest rolled his eyes and clutched his rosary that had been loosely draped between his fingers. Another lapsed Catholic, he thought. Sighing under his breath, he readied to guide the penitent through what promised to be a very stilted, non-traditional confession. He was thankful that he'd posted a copy of an Act of Contrition on the wall of each confessional. At least the final absolution would go more smoothly.
"What is it you want to confess, my child?"
"Um " started the woman, unsure exactly where to begin. She couldn't remember if there was some kind of time limit on her confession, and she glanced around the small box searching for a timer of some sort. Not finding anything of the kind, she figured the device must be on the priest's side. She could just imagine red numbers counting down the seconds and hurried to order her sins.
"I almost told the truth," she blurted quickly, her mind settling on her recently failed toast. A dropped champagne glass had been the only thing that had stood between her profession of love and an omission of the same. The moment had shattered into as many pieces as had the delicate glass flute.
The priest frowned; the woman was definitely confused as to what constituted a sin. "Telling the truth isn't a sin. Lying is."
"Well, I sort of lied." She scrunched up her face and shrugged her shoulders apologetically. If there'd been a mirror inside the tiny confessional, she'd had marveled at how similar her gesture had been to the one her daughter often used to get out of trouble.
"How did you sort of lie?" asked the priest, tilting his ear closer to the screen.
"I've been keeping my true feelings for my friend bottled up, and I don't think my heart can take it any longer," she confessed, not bothering to explain that her heart was actually someone else's, someone else who had loved both her and her friend.
"That's not a sin either," said the priest, wondering if he'd misjudged this particular penitent. Perhaps she hadn't built up any sins during her lapsed years.
"It is when there's another person involved. The two of them are engaged now and I want them to be happy, really I do. It's just that " the woman paused and tried to find the words to explain her confusion, her dilemma, her intense feelings for her friend.
"Ah," the priest started, finally able to connect the dots from one vertex of the love triangle to another. "You're in love with your friend, but he's in love with someone else."
The woman bit down on the edge of her lip to keep from correcting the completely understandable leap the priest had taken. At least he understood the situation. There was no need to complicate things further by explaining that it was the female of the couple that she loved.
"It's not a sin to love someone else," he explained. "It's acting on that love that's the problem." Shifting on the comfortable padded bench, he contemplated his next words. Not one to usually suggest something that could cause problems for someone else, this situation was different. Marriage was sacred and shouldn't be entered into lightly. All disclosures should be made beforehand, especially something that might have a bearing on its success. As a priest, it was his duty to do everything in his power to protect the sanctity of all the church's sacraments.
"But," he added, "If you're honest now, before the marriage, you'd not be guilty of a sin. It's acting on one's love after the marriage that would be wrong and definitely a sin in God's eyes. I do understand your dilemma. You don't want to hurt anyone, but in the end, your omission would be more damaging to the marriage."
The woman frowned. "Are you saying that I should tell my friend how I feel?"
The priest nodded. "Yes, I think you should seriously consider it. He needs to have all the facts going in. So many marriages these days are built on faulty foundations, mostly because both parties aren't completely honest with each other."
"But I'm not one of the parties," she said sadly, knowing that even if she was, marriage between two individuals of the same sex wasn't sanctioned by the church or the government. At the moment, however, she'd settle for having the other woman at her side as her partner in life.
"It doesn't matter. From what I gather, you're an integral part of this relationship. You owe it to your friend and to yourself to be honest. I know it will be hard, I know feelings might be hurt, but the success or failure of your friend's marriage depends on your truthfulness."
The priest's seal of approval was not what the woman had been seeking when she'd driven an hour from her home in search of absolution for her latest stunt. She'd expected to be guided to bottle up her feelings and to cast them into the bottom of the lake she'd passed on her way to the church. She'd needed someone to chastise her for being her usually selfish, conniving self and caution her against destroying the upcoming marriage.
"I'll take your suggestion into consideration," she said softly, her mind already turning to how she should go about confessing her love to her friend. "Thank you, Father." She reached for her purse and groaned as she started to push to her feet. It would more than likely take hours for the wood grain imprints to disappear from her knees.
"Wait!" the priest said suddenly, halting the movement of the woman. She eased her weight back onto the kneeler and groaned again. She should have known there'd be strings attached to his proposal. She waited quietly for the other shoe to drop.
"Is there anything else you need to confess?" The priest was sure there had to be more. This particular situation alone screamed for venial sin after venial sin.
The woman was just able to keep from bursting out in laughter. There wasn't enough time in the world to confess every sinful act she'd been guilty of through the years. What was one more lie?
"No," she answered confidently. "That was it." She once again moved to stand.
"Wait!" he said again. "You haven't been absolved yet."
"But, I thought you said I haven't committed any sins." She didn't understand this confession thing. How did one absolve another of a non-sin?"
"It's part of the process," the priest explained. "Besides, during your Act of Contrition, you'll be absolved from any sin you may have accidentally omitted."
"You're kidding?" she said, a smile forming on her lips. "You mean to tell me that I'll be forgiven of any and all sins I haven't told you?" She'd definitely forgotten that little tidbit of information.
"Only if you truly can't remember what they are."
She grinned even wider, certain that she'd forgotten a multitude of sins along the way. This confession thing wasn't so bad after all. "What do I have to do?"
The priest made a mental note to place a short synopsis of the sacrament in the confessionals and have the penitents brush up on the process before he'd hear their confession. He sighed audibly as he explained the last part of the sacrament's procedure. "You say your Act of Contrition while I absolve you of your sins. There's a copy on the wall next to the screen. When you start, I'll begin."
The woman spotted the pinned up prayer and began to read. "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, "
Olivia Spencer stepped outside the doors of the quaint little Catholic Church and drew in a fresh breath of air, feeling light and free for the first time since she'd given her slightly inebriated toast at Frank and Natalia's engagement party. She'd just received the Sacrament of Confession and had been absolved from a good many of her sins. So what if she'd not stepped inside a church since she'd been a teen?
Practically skipping down the steps toward her car, she laughed giddily. She'd been given a priest's blessing to confess her feelings to Natalia. Add to that, the almost identical advice Sister Ann had given her and Olivia couldn't go wrong. God couldn't exactly fault two of his own, although Sister Ann's words had been slightly opened to interpretation. Olivia had just chosen to interpret them to her own advantage.
All that was left for her to do was to sit Natalia down and profess her deep and undying love for the other woman. It certainly would help her cause when she explained to Natalia that they had two strong people of faith in their corner, even though neither the priest nor Sister Ann had actually given their blessing to the idea of a relationship between two women, but that was really just semantics. The important thing was that Natalia knew there was support from religious members of the Catholic community.
Climbing into her car, Olivia glanced back at the church and moved her gaze higher and higher until her eyes fell on the stone cross affixed to the roof of the building. Olivia stared at the symbol that had so much meaning to Natalia and struggled to understand why it held such significance to the other woman. To Olivia, it was just that, a symbol, nothing more and nothing less.
The thought had barely left her mind when a ray of sunlight suddenly shone brightly on the dull grey stone, giving it an almost luminous quality. Olivia watched, mesmerized, as the cross seemed to come to life, glowing so brightly she had to raise her hand to shield her eyes. Time came to a complete standstill until, just as quickly as it had appeared, the light was gone, leaving the cross in its natural, obscure form.
Olivia blinked and searched the sky, immediately noting the sun's position. She'd never been very good at Geometry, but she was certain there was no angle known to man that would have allowed a ray of light to be drawn from the sun to the cross. Had she imagined the transformation?
Guiding her keys into the ignition, she turned the car on and eased it into gear, her gaze returning to the Church's cross. It still remained grey and lifeless, but she now understood what it had the potential of becoming. It just needed to have some light shed upon it.
Her smile returned, growing stronger and brighter as she pulled from the curb. She knew what she had to do. She had to trust in Sister Ann, the Catholic priest, and the transformed cross. She had to walk into the light.
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