Categories > Original > Fantasy > Stone

Chapter 3

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 - 2109 words

Caelius returned to his room shortly after finishing his meal, and to pass the time, I brought him a box of charcoals I had leftover from youth activities in years gone by. I stayed with him for a moment as he methodically chose his colors, testing each one on the paper I provided.
“You just sit tight, now. I'll be right back.”
I gave him a pat on the head, and left him on his own to rifle through my desk for the telephone's user manual. Ever since the parish secretary hired someone to install the box on my office wall a few months ago, the church had been filled with the rambunctious shrill of its brass bells. She insisted on its necessity around the turn of the century, but I had not yet placed a call with it. I'd managed to minimize its use to emergencies only, but the boy would have to be an exception.
Scanning the pages, I reached for the crank and lifted the receiver to my ear.
“Operator, how may I help you?”
“A-ah, yes, I'd like to call St. Mary's Children's Home in Okehampton, p-please,” I responded with with pursed lips.
“One moment, sir.”
The sisters would be able to guide me through the delicate process of finding him a new family, and I anxiously tapped my foot as I waited for one of them to answer on the other line.
“St. Mary's Catholic home of the children. May I ask who is speaking?” A silvery voice answered.
“Hello, this is Father Marques. I'd like to speak to Sister Martin, pl-”
“Father Marques on the telephone! My, I didn't think I'd live to see the day. Now what is so urgent that would bring you to use the tele?”
I chuckled. “Oh, do not patronize me, dear Sister! If I remember correctly, you were quite wary of this new technology, yourself. But you are correct, I do have somewhat of an emergency today. You see... I have a boy with me, an orphan boy. Well, I don't exactly know what his circumstances are... But, I was hoping you could help me figure that out. And he needs a place to stay-”
Suddenly, a loud banging followed by an unearthly cry and a muffled “I'm coming!” resounded from the other end of the line.
“Orphan boy, you say? Oh, I do apologize, Father. I would so like to help, but the home is a little hectic right now, as I'm sure you can tell. If you could stop by in about an hour or so, we'll be happy to take care of him!”
“Ah-Of course! Take care, I'll see you later.”
I bit my lip as I hung up the tele, a pit of uneasiness forming in my gut.
“Caelius?” I called.
He looked up from his drawing, pushing up his oversized sleeves. I realized the boy was still in the old alb, and I could not present him to ladies without the proper attire. I had no choice but to pick up a few things for him at this point, but I could not leave him home alone. He would simply have to come, but I hoped I could manage carrying him all the way to the shop.
“Come, child. We're going out. Need to get you some new clothes so that you don't have to keep that ratty robe.”
I stretched out my hand as I had the day before, and he still accepted it, though a little hesitantly with dull eyes. When we reached the foyer, I slipped a knitted hat over his curly hair and stretched my socks up to his knees, hoping it'd be enough to keep him sufficiently warm. I opened the front door, holding his face close to my chest, and shielded him from the bitter winds as I locked the door behind me. With a sharp inhale of the crisp air, I scanned the empty streets, covered in white. How glad I was to have found Caelius when I did, and not a moment later.
“Where are we going?” he asked, admiring the freshly dusting of snow over my shoulder.
“Just a little shop up the street. I have a friend who should be able to find you some nice, new clothes.”
Traditional hunting suits fitted the mannequins in the lofty windows under a wooden sign which read “Old Tom's Menswear”, and a tiny bell chimed as I entered with Caelius hugging my neck. Tom sat in his leather chair behind the mahogany counter, puffing smoke out of his pipe, as he had been for decades now – traditions ran deep in this quaint town, right down to daily routine. The fifteen minute trip into Okehampton seemed to last hours on this chill morning, but the sight of the crackling fireplace beside him immediately put my aching bones at ease.
“Well, if it isn't the Father! And 'oo is that with ye? Oh, I still remember when you were a little one like 'im. ” He slowly eased himself up and straightened his hunched back. Caelius clung to me, shyly, as I put him down.
“Aw, nothin' to be afraid of, I won't bite.” He let out a raspy laugh and bared his missing teeth.
“Go on, say hello, Caelius. He's the nice man who owns this shop.”
He stepped forward a few inches and mumbled a quick, “H-hello,” before retreating to his spot behind my leg. Tom laughed again.
“Ah, so nice to 'ave children around, in' it? But I don't recall you with any lady friends... 'oo's is 'ee?”
I leaned over to his ear and quietly whispered, “Found him out in the cold last night... We're buying him some things before I bring him to a home,” while Caelius' attention was on the taxidermy bird in the corner.
Tom tilted his head back, making an “O” with his mouth. “I see... So unfortunate, that is. I'll make sure 'ee is proper warm, nice shoes and everythin'.”
“Thank you, Tom. I knew you'd be of the most help.”
He brought us into a dim backroom where he measured Caelius' foot size with a funny little metal contraption and twiddled his bony fingers over the endless rows of shoes.
“Ah, 'ere we are. 'ow 'bout you try these on for size.”
Tom handed me a few pairs small enough to rest in one hand, and several sets of collared shirts and trousers. I ended up settling for a pair of each and a few other basics until the home could provide. It wasn't necessarily my place to do such a service to the boy, but leaving him like a street rat with no clothes of his own didn't feel right. Not for such a young child, anyway.
“I'll be seeing you again, I hope! Thanks for dropping by,” he called to us as he assumed his position at the front desk once again. We left with warm regards.
Caelius seemed to love his new boots the most, and he took every opportunity to dig his heels into the piles of snow as we continued downtown to the home. We were running a bit late, but I couldn't bring myself to hurry him when he was having so much fun. I hadn't heard the unadulterated laughter of a child in many years.
“So, Caelius... I'm going to introduce you to the very nice lady who is going to take care of you from now on. I promise you will love it in her home, especially with all of the other kiddies.”
I peeked at him out of the corner of my eye as he suppressed a sigh.
“Will you still come to see me?”
I blinked a few times at his words.
“O-of course... But when you get your new family, I bet you won't even remember me.”
“I won't forget.”
Perhaps it was the soft resonance of his voice or the desperation in his round eyes, but Caelius had a way of stirring my reclusive heart. Guilt flooded me, because from the moment I'd found him, I knew it was my responsibility to care for him as long as he desired. This wouldn't be the clean cut I'd imagined.
We arrived at Sister Martin's cottage half past three o' clock. Wails and giggles could be heard around the bend, and I worried that even the blaring buzzer at her front door would go unheard. As we waited on the snowy steps, Caelius peered, tentatively, through the window at the hoard of children running by. He leaped back with a little squeal as the wooden door suddenly swung open.
“Ah, there you are! I was wondering when you'd be here, come in, come in! Sorry to have you waiting.”
She shook my hand as she shut the door behind us and knelt before Caelius, smiling graciously.
“Oh, is this the little one? Tell me, what is your name?”
“I-I'm Caelius...” he mumbled, holding his hands and staring at his feet.
Sister Martin gave his back a rub and laughed quietly.
“What a fine name that is! And I'm Sister Martin, it's nice to meet you. Now, the Father and I are going to have a little chat, but Sister Roberts will introduce you to all the other nice little boys and girls. How does that sound?”
He glanced up to me for confirmation. After nodding my head, he took the sister's hand and trailed behind her to the playroom. Caelius seemed uncomfortable in the situation, but I was certain he would be in better hands here.
“A sweet little boy, he seems, but he has such sad eyes, doesn't he? How did you come upon him?”
“Indeed, he does... You see, I was out running some errands last night, then on my way back to the church, I heard this odd noise coming from a stack of crates. Naturally, I decided to inspect, and the boy was inside one of them! I tell you, Sister, he gave me such a fright. He was just cooped up in there in the middle of a blasted storm. I have no idea where he's from, and he says he has no family... He doesn't even remember his last name. He might have some form of memory loss, I just can't tell... I worry something might've happened to him.”
She cupped a bony hand over her cheek. “Poor dearie! We will make sure he is good and comfortable here. But you do understand that this is only a halfway home of sorts, right? We'll have to bring him to a proper facility or set him up with a family, but that process often takes much longer than we are able to keep him here for... And we couldn't even guarantee that he'd stay with the first few families.”
I observed him carefully as he smiled timidly at the other children, socializing with the reassurance of Sister Roberts. It pained me to imagine him moving in and out of homes where the families could so easily taint his innocent spirit. Neither option was ideal.
“Will you keep me updated about him? Let me know how he is doing?”
“Of course, no need to worry about him. And you can come visit him any time you'd like.”
“Thank you, Sister. I'll just tell him goodbye, then.”
Sister Martin motioned Sister Roberts to bring Caelius over, and I gave his soft hair a ruffle as he waddled close.
“I'll be going now, Caelius, but I'll be back this weekend. Have fun with your new friends, okay?”
He sucked in a deep breath with a quivering lip as if he might cry. He nodded, reluctantly. I gave a sympathetic smile and pulled him close to wrap my knitted scarf around his neck, just as I had the night before.
“You keep this now. I think it suits you more, anyway.”
Caelius grinned as he held the soft wool to his cheeks, and he threw his arms around me. The sisters giggled quietly behind us as I leaned down to return his passionate hug. The unusual sensation I'd felt the night before, again, tugged at my heartstrings. It was becoming a more familiar emotion, but I tried my best to dismiss it as I left the home.
When I returned to the church that evening, I hung up my coat with slumped shoulders and a heavy heart. I couldn't stop thinking about Caelius, and worry slowly slithered back in. Before, I'd found peace of mind in knowing that he'd be with the Sisters, but as I beheld the empty spare room, I felt a tinge of regret.
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