Categories > Original > Fantasy > Stone

Chapter 4

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 - 1533 words

The sixth toll of the oak grandfather clock reverberated through the halls, jolting me from my office desk. Visiting hours at the home would be over at eight o'clock – I couldn't break my promise to Caelius.
Time seemed to evade me this past week. Today, I'd hardly had a moment's rest or a bite to eat between morning mass and the baptisms, and I worried that the members would begin to notice how exhausted and unprepared I'd been during my sermons, as of late. It was usually stress that kept me up night, but worrying about Caelius had refueled my insomnia.
He's just an orphan boy, I thought. I'd come across several in my time as a priest, but I felt a stronger connection to him than to any before.
After tidying my desk and flipping through my schedule one last time, I bundled up to brave the chilly night air. Though the orphanage was just in the town over, visiting Caelius took a large chunk out of my work day and preparatory time. In some ways, it was almost more convenient to have him at home with me. There was so much I could take care of in the time it would take to visit him, but I had to admit that this commitment had given me a little motivation to get through my duties, this week.
I took my time meandering down the icy path to their front step, and as I rapped the thick brass handle against the door, I suddenly imagined what it would be like to have him living with me. Sister Roberts smiling face disrupted me from this thought.
“Hello, Father! Caelius is right down the hall, and he's been waiting for you all day.” She said, holding back two bouncing children.
I bent down to wave at them. “Oh, has he? Ah, it's been a full day at the church... I hope he understands.”
“Of course. A patient one, he is!”
She motioned down the hall to the last door on the left, and I gave a light knock before peeking in. A group of young boys dashed about the room, engaged in a game of tag and sword-fighting while Caelius sat on the floor in the midst of it, cross-legged with a childrens picture book version of the bible in his lap. Indeed, he was a patient boy.
“Caelius?” I called.
He hopped up from his spot with an eager grin, running towards me for a hug – and a loving one, at that. I chuckled and bent down on both knees, holding him close to my chest.
“You came!” he said excitedly.
“What kind of holy man would I be if I wasn't a man of my word?” – He smiled wide again, his cheeks as rosy as ever – “So what have you been up to? Do you like it here?”
He nodded and eased himself into replying. “Y-yes... The sisters are kind.”
I brought him to the lobby and sat him on the leather couch beside me.
“How about the other children? I haven't seen you playing with them much.”
Caelius cast his eyes downward, twiddling his thumbs.
“They're nice, too, but... we're different.”
“Different? How so?”
He shrugged. “We just are... I don't know why...”
My eyebrows furrowed as he stared blankly at my collar with a familiar distance. Had another boy said something to him? Was he too fragile for their rough play? He was an unusually withdrawn child, so I worried that the older children might exclude him.
“Caelius, you let me know if anyone bothers you, okay?”
He agreed quietly and took my hand, leading me down a separate hall. In a childrens home, the sound of raucous play and laughter was constant, but this hall was quiet – I could see why he preferred it. We stopped in front of a thick door adorned with drawings and large colorful letters that read “Book Nook”.
“Like to read, eh?”
I followed him inside and wandered around the childrens shelves in search of some picture books. He walked right past me, over to a bookshelf in the corner which held rows of dusty leather-bound books, the majority of which were philosophical guides or unabridged versions of the classics. Surely, Caelius wouldn't prefer those to a nice fairytale?
“Can we read one?” He asked standing on his tiptoes as he eagerly pointed to them.
“I-if you'd like. I suppose I could find something.”
I adjusted my eyeglasses and combed over the books for something possibly suitable for a five year old. Les Miserables and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics would be much too complex, but perhaps a collection of art from the ancient world would satisfy him. He enjoyed the artwork in the church, after all.
With a heave, I retrieved the thick book from the top shelf and wiped away the dust. I sat myself down at the lounge chair in the corner and lifted him onto my lap, holding the book in front of him as he carefully turned the delicate pages. Eyes wide in sheer awe, he studied each painting and sculpture, admiring the fine details and designs. They were indeed beautiful works, but Caelius instilled a renewed sense of appreciation in me.
“Look at this one!” he remarked with each flip, pressing his face close to the book.
How odd it is for a child to have such developed aesthetic taste...
Our time passed in the blink of an eye as I explained the history and myth behind these masterpieces, and it took some effort to hide my disappointment when Sister Roberts entered the room, calling him off to bed.
“We will do this again, won't we, Father...?” he asked, expectantly.
I patted his cheek. “Of course we will. Now don't keep the sister waiting, I'll be here again before you know it.”
He nodded, a delighted smile on his lips as he hurried towards her.
I gave an affectionate sigh as the door shut behind them. With my hands in my pockets and my head lowered, I made my way out of the dormant hallways and to the front door. It was true that I had met many orphans in my time, but none compared to this curious boy who I was growing fonder of by the second. I would see him again tomorrow, I continued to remind myself.
“Ah, Father, there you are! I wanted to speak to you about a rather urgent matter with the boy, before you leave.”
I promptly turned around. “Yes, what is it?”
She motioned me towards the front desk, speaking in a hushed tone. “As I'm sure you already know, we have to fill out a good deal of paperwork in order to find him a family. The papers call for a first and last name, date of birth – the usual. You said he didn't remember anything about himself other than his first name, so we asked him to write it down for us so that we could request his records. We thought it would be a fairly simple process to get his information... but we've run into a bit of a trouble.”
“What sort of trouble?” My eyebrows knitted together. Had he suffered some previous trauma? Was someone after him? I imagined the worst in this brief moment of silence.
“There are no matches to a Caelius his age – Not in the whole of England.”
I rolled my shoulders back, thoroughly bewildered. How could that be possible?
“A-are you sure the spelling is right? I mean, he is a small-”
“We've had to go through the process of finding a full name and date of birth many times before, but no matter what, we've been able to get to the bottom of it, eventually. Even when its a common name, the social workers are able to narrow it down in a few days or so. We've tried different spellings already, but none were successful... We've even sent out search requests to the rest of the U.K., just in case, but his accent is unmistakably English.”
“What else have you been able to figure out about him?”
She shook her head, “Not much, I'm afraid. We tried talking to him about what happened before you found him, and he couldn't remember. He doesn't remember much at all. In fact, he's not even familiar with Christmas tradition! It's a very strange case, indeed,” she sighed and gave my shoulder a pat. “It's disheartening, I know, but just because our searches have proved inconclusive, doesn't mean he's a displaced child. Files can be easily mixed up – happens all the time. Caelius might even be his nickname, there's no way of knowing for sure. No matter what, we will make sure the boy is safe and taken care of here.”
I gave a slight nod and covered my concern with a smile.
“Thank you, truly. He seems happy here... And I have no doubt of that.”
I'd hoped the cold air on my trek back to the church would settle my racing mind, but each question lead to a dozen more. Even as I fell asleep that night, one thought remained – Who was this curious child?
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