Comedy Stories

Innocence Lost


5:00 a.m. — Lauds or Dawn Prayer

“St. Benedict had too many rules for the clergy,” he said, rolling over in her big wide bed. “Awakening at this ungodly hour was probably the most demonic,” he sighed and burrowed back into the crisp, white sheets, cool in the morning air. The sheets had been sun-dried the day before and still smelled of early spring and youth and possibilities.

He suddenly arose and threw open the blinds to let the insistent rays of dawn wash over him.

“Please, it is cold—” she protested, raised an arm to cover her eyes. But he just laughed and pulled her out of bed and up to the window sill to see the light peek over the lush rolling hills and crystalline lake. She covered as much of herself as possible.

“It is time for Lauds. What the priests call the dawn prayer,” he smiled, holding her hands in the manner of prayer together in his. “This was my least favorite time of prayer at the seminary,” he said, burying his face in her hair. She smelled of rose water.

“Are you going to pray with me?” she teased.

“I am. But instead of St. Benedict, I will pray the words of John Donne,” he whispered, then he cleared his throat. He wildly yelled out the window, shaking his fist: “Busy old fool, unruly sun, / Why dost thou thus, / Through windows, and through curtains call on us?”

He startled the few chickens under the window who protested the commotion from above.

“What did John Donne mean by all of that?” she asked, unimpressed with his recitation.

“What any poet’s aubade means. Lovers having to separate at the dawn,” he whispered again, nuzzling her neck.

“Are you leaving?” she wondered aloud.

“I am not,” he picked her up and returned to bed.

🜋 🜋 🜋

6:00 a.m. — Prime or Early Morning Prayer

“Are you still asleep?” she asked.

“I am,” he replied, clearly lying.

🜋 🜋 🜋

9:00 a.m. — Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer

“I brought us some breakfast,” she said cheerfully, placing a wooden tray on the table at the foot of the bed.

He yawned, stretching his long legs and arching his back. Sleeping late was always such a luxury. Especially in these trying times.

“There are croissants and jam and . . .” she stopped short when he leaned up and firmly held her wrist.

“To eat, do I have to leave this bed?” he asked. It was the first time she had seen him so serious.

“You do not,” she replied. “You stay in bed as long as you wish.” She brought the tray from the small table directly to him in bed and crawled up alongside them both.

He took a croissant, slathered it decadently with jam, and carefully fed it to her like a child. She ate it gleefully and giggled with delight.

After their fill, she lay her head on his chest.

“Tell me what a terrible little creature you were as a child,” she demanded.

And he did. He told her story after story.

🜋 🜋 🜋

12:00 Noon — Sext or Midday Prayer

“I brought us some wine from the rectory,” she confided, pulling out a bottle and two glasses from behind her back.

“You brought us wine . . . ?” he asked, an eyebrow raised in admonishment.

“I stole us some wine from the rectory,” she amended.

“Is not stealing a mortal sin?”

“It cannot be worse than stealing the priest,” she said matter-of-fact while deftly pouring a fine claret into two of the rectory’s goblets.

“True,” he conceded.

“You do not—you do not suppose this is communion wine,” she gasped, giving him a horrified look.

“It may be,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Should I take it back?” she asked, wide eyed and momentarily concerned about her immortal soul.

“Let me try something,” he said, putting his hands over the wine. “Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti: da nobis per hujus aquae et vini mysterium, ejus divinitatis esse consortes, qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps, Jesus Christus Filius tuus Dominus noster: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus. Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.”

“That was beautiful,” she said, sipping her wine with renewed enthusiasm.

He fluidly swigged the entire goblet down, theatrically showing her how quickly it had been emptied. Laughing, she refilled both glasses again and again until the bottle rolled empty across the floor.

🜋 🜋 🜋

3:00 p.m. — None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer

“We should get up,” she suggested.

“We should not,” he replied.

“But I have not yet bathed,” she pouted, petulant and willful.

“You stay here. I will be back,” he said. Then sternly looked at her and ordered: “Do. Not. Move.”

Shortly he returned with a basin of hot water and a few fine white cloths, freshly removed from the rectory’s linen cabinet.

🜋 🜋 🜋

6:00 p.m. — Vespers or Evening Prayer

“Will you leave me,” she said, wrapping her arms around his waist. It was not a question.

“I will stay as long as I can,” he said truthfully.

She felt him slipping away already.

“Will you tell me another poem?”

“Which poet would you hear?”

“The one you like so much.”

“John Donne?”

“Yes, John Donne.” She really did not care if he quoted St. Benedict, as the night was passing too quickly. She just wanted him to keep talking with her.

“But we by a love so much refined, / That our selves know not what it is, / Inter-assured of the mind, / Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss,” he recited flawlessly.

“Please tell me what that means,” she rolled over to him, eyes beseeching his face, his face already looking out the window. Restless.

“It means we have a love which time and distance cannot diminish,” he said, looking at her so forthright that she almost believed him.

🜋 🜋 🜋

7:00 p.m. — Compline or Night Prayer

“The rectory’s larder was overly generous tonight. We will feast,” she said, hoisting another tray onto the bed. This tray was laden with cooked meats and cheeses and olives. She watched with great satisfaction as he tucked in, murmuring his approval for her efforts.

She loved him.

🜋 🜋 🜋

2:00 a.m. — Matins or Vigil Prayer

She rolled over to find the other side of the big wide bed was cool. The trays and wine bottles and glasses and basin and damp linen had all been stacked with care by the door.

She saw the sliver of a crescent moon—another solitary traveler—reflecting off the lake. With great reverence, she humbly bowed her head and prayed to St. Christopher for all three of them.

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