Categories > Original > Fantasy > Stone

Chapter 2

by BrieBlakmyre 0 reviews

After finding Caelius abandoned on a wintry night with no memory of his past, Father Marques realizes that this young orphan boy is a much grander mystery than he could have ever imagined.

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Published: 2015-02-22 - 1913 words

The swirling snow and formidable winds transformed the familiar streets into a snowy tundra, obscuring my sense of direction. If it weren't for the steeple, which was visible above the treeline, we might've been lost all night. I was huffing loudly as we reached the front steps, my throat burning from the icy air. The boy couldn't have weighed more than 50 pounds, but my strength was exhausted.
Not the strong lad I used to be...
“Well, here we are. I'll put the fire on so you can get all warmed up,” I groaned, putting him down on the stone tile floor and giving my back a crack.
His eyes opened wide as they darted from the painted ceiling to the stained-glass windows to the flickering candles, and back to me. The genuine excitement in his young eyes warmed my heart.
“Never been in a church before, eh? This is my home, and I am the priest here. How do you like it?”
I bent down to his level and he bobbed his head up and down. “It's so pretty.”
With a chuckle, I patted his little blonde head and motioned him to follow me into the kitchen.
“I'll be right back with your pie and some wood for the fireplace. Make yourself comfortable, and help yourself to this in the meanwhile.”
He dove for the bakery bag that I placed beside him, and he ripped big chunks off of the buttery loaves with both hands. As I left him alone in the kitchen, my mind drifted to the negative. Had he been abused? A runaway? What if he was a thief, strategically placed as some sort of bait?
Better to have an orphan steal my property than leave him in that awful cold.
When I returned, I found him sitting in the chair exactly as I'd left him, quietly munching and kicking his legs back and forth. I placed the steaming plate on his lap, and he ravenously shoveled spoonfuls into his mouth, leaving no crumb behind. Despite my fears, I could not seriously consider this desperate child a danger.
“So, tell me. What is your name?” I asked as I flicked a match onto the pile of pine needles atop the logs – It caught fire, instantly.
“Caelius,” he replied, slowly, as if he had forgotten the sound of it, and he stared blankly into the glowing embers.
“And your last?”
He seemed perplexed by my question and stopped mid-bite. “I don't know.”
His expression grew serious whenever I asked him about himself, and I watched the reflection of the red coals fade in and out of his remote gaze. Whether he didn't want to tell me, or he simply could not remember, I decided not to pressure him any further.
We remained silent as the fire crackled and popped, warming my numb cheeks. After taking his last bite, he wiped his mouth of the potato remnants and stretched his little fingers towards the fire. He held them just a few centimeters away from the hearth.
“Caelius, not so close,” I said pulling his hands away just before the flame licked his rosy fingertips.
He stared at me, curiously.
“You'll burn yourself,” I muttered, but he still didn't seem to understand.
Is he a confused child? Suffering from amnesia?
“Ah... How about I draw you nice, hot a bath. Get you all cleaned up, eh? You'll warm up better in there.”
He nodded and hopped off of his stool to follow me. With one hand, he curled his fist into a ball around my pant leg, and I placed a reassuring hand on his back. I prayed that he wouldn't become too attached.
I'll have to send him off first thing in the morning, I told myself. No exceptions.
As I pushed up my sleeves and turned on both faucets, he watched the pool of water flow across the bottom of the tub. I knelt beside him and ran my hand through it.
“It's the perfect temperature. Hop on in.”
He tossed his night shirt and knickers to the tile beneath him and waded in with a pleased sigh. A few swishes and splashes was all it took to muddy up the porcelain, so I rushed over with the toiletry basket and wash basin before he could make a bigger mess. I offered him a wash cloth and bar of soap, but he refused it with a helpless look. I nodded understandingly. After dunking the rag into the tub, I lathered it up with soap and thoroughly scrubbed his head, neck, and arms from any traces of dust and grime. It seemed as if he had been covered in some sort of soot, like he'd been cleaning chimneys, but a boy his age would never be expected to do a job like that, would he? As I gently wiped his pink cheeks, he watched me without blinking, studying my every movement. His was an earnest look – so innocent and inquisitive. It was as if he'd never felt another human's touch.
“Now, how about your feet?”
Caelius lifted his stubby toes out of the water with a melodic giggle and wiggled them in front of me. I smiled endearingly, amused by his childish gestures. After frothing up his blonde hair and untangling the biggest knots, I poured one more bucket of clean water over him and retrieved his towel. He stood and reached for me with open arms, urging me to dry him off. In his eyes, I saw an old soul, but his clumsy motions reminded me that he was still just a young boy who could not yet care for himself.
“I better get you some clean clothes, then tuck you in. Don't want to be dressed in a soppy towel all night, do you?”
He shook his head and let out another gentle laugh. Caelius trailed behind me like a shadow as I moved from room to room, searching for something small enough to fit him. All of my shirts were much too big, but I'd found an old ripped alb left by one of the altar boys. It would have to do for the night.
I slipped the gown over his head and he lifted up his arms which were hidden in the long sleeves. He nearly tripped as he stepped forward.
“Well, that won't do...”
I tied the bottom and rolled up his sleeves, to his content, before carrying him to bed in the spare room next to mine. Hesitantly, he slipped under the thick covers by himself. I could see that he was frightened by the spacious loft, but he didn't utter a word in protest.
“Cozy?” I asked and he nodded, hugging the pillow tightly. His eyes darted around the dark room.
How did he manage in that box all by himself?
“Look over there, Caelius,” I whispered and held up the candle at his bedside towards the ceiling.
The half-finished work glowed above the dim yellow light.
“The artist never did get around to painting all that he had planned, but there are three very lovely angels in the corner who will watch over you.”
He turned on his back and squinted at the images, a smile on his face. With my reassurance, he snuggled back into his pillow, seemingly calmed, and I pulled the covers up to his neck.
“There, now. I'll be right in the next room, if you need anyth-,” I said, closing the door behind me.
“W-wait,” he called out. Surprised, I turned back. It was the first time he'd spoken to me, directly.
“Y-you asked me my name, but what's yours...?”
A small smile tugged at the corner of my lips.
“Of course, how rude of me to not properly introduce myself. I'm Father Marques, but you can just call me Father, alright?”
“Thank you... Father,” he spoke softly as he glanced at the paintings once more.
My heart stirred at the sound, and I smiled to myself, leaving the door open just a crack.
“Goodnight, Caelius.”


My eyes fluttered open to the clock face which read 9:02. I groaned inwardly and slipped on my gold-rimmed glasses, blinking a few times to adjust my vision. I'd taken the luxury of sleeping in since the storm had canceled morning mass, but I'd slept far too long.
With a jolt, I climbed out of bed and slipped into my day clothes. How could I have slept so long with the boy here? Hurriedly, I slipped on my loafers and crossed the hall to his room. The door was wide open, the bed empty.
“Caelius. Caelius?” I called repeatedly as I traveled from room to room in search of him. Everything was in its place besides him, and I worried about where he might have gone without shoes.
“Caelius! Cae-!”
I halted in front of the chapel where I found him kneeling before the altar. Sunlight poured through the stained-glass, illuminating his golden hair like a halo. He reminded me so much of the little cherubs on the ceiling above him.
“Good grief, there you are... You had me worried nearly half to death.”
He jumped at the sound of my voice as if I'd broken him from his trance.
“S-sorry, Father... I wanted to see the pretty pictures.”
I nodded and knelt beside him, soaking in the warm rays.
“I'm glad you like them so much. How fortunate to have this one for a home, isn't it?”
“I'm so happy, Father, to live in such a beautiful place now!”
My shoulders tensed. I swallowed, dryly, unable to formulate a response for quite some time. Did he really have the impression that I'd brought him here for good?
“W-well, Caelius...” I stuttered. “I'm afraid you can't stay here.”
His shoulders fell, along with his smile, and he stared at me, heartbreak visible in his silvery eyes.
“But, I thought you said to call you father...?”
Of course. How could I have been so insensitive to an impressionable young boy? A little child would not understand religious terminology.
“C-Caelius, I am so sorry. I didn't mean to get your hopes up, but 'Father' is the term used for priests like me. Ah-Everyone calls me F-Father... not that I'm your-”
My head hung low as I turned away from his broken expression. What had I done?
“Oh...” he whispered.
I stood and helped him up with me, giving both of his hands a reassuring squeeze.
“Besides, you wouldn't want an old man like me to be your father! I work long days. There's hardly any room to play in this church, and there are no other kids around. You'd get bored by tomorrow,” I let out a small laugh, but he did not. “Look, I'm going to find you a nice family, Caelius. One with a father and mother, maybe even some siblings, who will love you and give you the care you deserve... Now, you must be hungry. I'll go make us some eggs and bangers, alright?”
Caelius nodded slowly and walked a fair distance behind me. As I put the pan over the burner, I watched him from the corner of my eye. He sat silently at the kitchen table without lifting his head, tapping his fingers, rhythmically, along the polished wood. A glum aura hung over him, and I feared that I'd done great damage to his delicate trust. His disappointment was audible with every breath. Hopefully, the nuns would be more considerate.
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