Christmastide: Feast of the Nativity
Raphael left behind his life as parish priest on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition that none of the angels should remain enfleshed through the feast day of the Lord’s incarnation. So he disposed of his possessions and shed his body with a mixture of relief and regret. He wandered through the rectory, experiencing the phantom-like memories of the many lives that had passed through the venerable building. He took a winding route on his way to Lillian’s room, quite aware of the old saying that men go where angels fear to tread.
Unlike many in Heaven, Raphael found human compulsion rather charming, so when he entered Lillian’s room, he was pleased to see two bodies under her blanket. Charles had not taken things slowly.
Raphael watched love made physical and wondered, as he occasionally did, if he should not try the experience. After all, God’s continual creation sustains the world at every instant; he had a reason for putting flesh on spirit, although Raphael had never learned what that was.
The window rattled from a strong gust of wind. A winter storm had moved in, but Raphael knew the rattling was a call for him to hurry along. Time did not matter in Heaven, but Raphael could not prove that given the frequent prodding he received.
He threw open the window. Lillian gasped in surprise as a cold wind billowed in, pushing a cloud of snow across the bed. As Charles leapt naked from under the blanket to shut the window, Raphael drew near to Lillian, searching one last time for her prayer, but he still could not find it. Saddened by the thought that her prayers had died with her brother, he whispered a word to her soul, and then he was gone.
Charles rushed back to the bed and hugged Lillian for warmth as his body overcame the cold left by the wind.
“I couldn’t open that window earlier today,” said Lillian with circumspection. “It was painted shut.”
“It’s a strong storm.” Charles began to kiss her neck. She smelled like autumn–like licorice and wood. He reached his hand to her breast. “You’re so soft, softer than anyone.” His tension erupted from him in a short giggle. “Not that I would know.”
He stretched onto his side, one arm under her neck and the other sliding to her hip. When she scooted close and rested her leg over his, her belly pressed against his erection, and his hips reflexively pressed back. He stared into her eyes, though the dim room kept them mostly in shadow. “You’re the first woman I’ve ever seen naked, except for the Blessed Virgin.”
“You’ve seen Mother Mary naked?”
“And Venus and Psyche and some nymphs.”
“Oh.” She rolled her eyes. “Your awful Bougeureau.”
“You’re a snob, my dear, and you’re going to have to learn to appreciate him. I don’t own much, but I have five prints that I plan to frame some day.”
“The garage will do fine.” When her fingers crawled across his hairy chest, he lost his breath, but then her smile fell away. “What are we talking about?”
“I love you, Lillian.” He kissed her, tasting her breath and then spreading her lips with his own in order to taste more. His hands brushed along her backside. He reached his hand to her inner thigh and slowly moved between her legs. When her leg lifted slightly, he felt faint, and a sweat broke across his neck. His hesitant fingers explored her pubic hair, before meeting her heat. “Dear God,” he muttered, surprised at how unbelievably soft she was.
Her arms wrapped around his shoulders, leaving one hand raking through his dark hair and the other stroking his broad back. He had never allowed himself to spend much time wondering what a woman felt like, but he doubted he could ever have truly imagined it anyway.
The nightlight, low near the door, provided just enough illumination to see her face. Her eyes were weak and glistened. In the dimness, he could not see the green, but he saw the passion.
She clenched him in a tight embrace, dragging her smooth face against his stubbled cheek. Her hips began a rhythm against his hand, and when she brushed across his erection, he began to ache. He tried to penetrate her with his fingers, but she moved them back, whispering for him not to stop, and her freely-expressed desire liberated his own.
His kisses were hot and breathy as his lips fought his lungs for attention. He trembled as a wave of heat sweated from him again, and he lost himself to the friction. Too late, he tried to redirect his thoughts, but he came with a cry, turning his face into the pillow and moaning until he drooled.
As soon as he gathered his scattered senses together, he began to apologize and did not stop until she pressed her hand to his mouth. She trailed her fingers down his torso until they reached his penis.
“I should clean up,” he whispered.
Although he tried to recall all the pieces of information he had received over the years, he really had no idea what he was supposed to do until she coaxed his hand back between her legs. When he realized how aroused she was, his erection began to return to life.
She clung to him, her body flushed and pulse racing. When he touched a particularly sensitive spot, she shuddered, and her rocking grew more rapid. “Right there,” she whispered. Her moans rose in pitch until she shouted and strangulated his throbbing erection with her unthinking hand. He was nearly blind with pleasure when she fell limp beside him.
Wondering only briefly if he had satisfied her, he tried to roll her over. “Now?” he asked, impatient to be inside her.
She pushed him to his back and climbed on top. He held her hips as she settled her wetness on him. She slid back and forth across the sensitive belly of his penis until he felt delirious, and then she curled her hips forward so that he could slide into her.
He lifted his hips, but she withdrew, and though she tried to take him in again, she stopped with a small groan and finally gave up. “I’m sorry. It hurts. It’s been so long. It hurts.”
He hugged her as she lay on top of him, his body still pulsing with arousal, his will struggling to overcome the needy ache. He wanted to bury himself inside her, but he also wanted every moment with her to be pleasurable, so he silently talked himself down. He lay focusing on his breathing—the expanding of his chest, the stretch of muscle, the rush of air through his nose, the rapid but steady pulse that began to slow down, breath-by-breath…
“Let’s put up the tree.”
He stirred at the voice.
“Charles, wake up.”
He opened his eyes to see Lillian’s eager eyes framed by handfuls of red curls. He thought he had slept only minutes, but she had turned on the lights and was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt that she must have scrounged from his closet. “You want to decorate the tree now?” he asked.
She tossed clothes at him. “When did you want to do it?”
“Tomorrow. Is it tomorrow?”
“I’ve been decorating my tree alone for fifteen years.” When he saw her enthusiasm dwindle, he put on the clothes and followed her downstairs.
At seven-feet tall, the pine tree he bought at a charity auction stood as a splendid compliment to the den’s fireplace. He opened the boxes of lights and ornaments, and as he began to hang them, Lillian made hot cocoa and played an album of carols she found among his stack of records.
As the night became morning, she sang along with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and asked Charles questions about each ornament. He had been collecting them since his seminary days.
“I’m sorry you lost yours,” he told her. “I know they meant a lot to you, especially the calendar.”
“Thank you. It’s all right.” She shook her head and sat down, fiddling with a silvered glass ball.
“Is there anything I can do?”
She smiled and shook her head, but when she started, “I found Lew that day,” he realized the thing he could do was listen.
“He was dead,” she continued. “You always think of blood as a fluid, but it was more like dried paint, like something plastic and fake. It didn’t seem real. It never seemed real, even now, and yet I’ve been stuck there in that room for twenty years. I’ve stayed there with Lew all this time because I didn’t want him to be alone. Isn’t that ridiculous? I didn’t think God would be in such an awful place, because if he were there, how could that have happened? But I was wrong. He was there with Lew, even when it happened. I just didn’t want Lew to be alone, that’s all. And I know he’s not. I know that now.”
Charles felt a pain in his chest, and he closed his eyes as it tightened. His sense of loneliness seemed suddenly overwhelming, as if it might suffocate him at any moment.
Lillian squeezed his arm. “Are you all right?”
“I’m sorry, Lil. That’s such a terrible place to be.”
“It shouldn’t have taken me so long to get over it.”
“You’re not over it.”
She smiled and then her eyes filled again with tears. “No. I don’t suppose I am. When will I be?”
Charles shook his head. “I’ve known people angry at God for less.”
“I’m not angry. I’ll never understand what he did, but I won’t diminish Lew by blaming someone else for it. It was his choice. Lew didn’t want to change. He didn’t want to give up control. We have to allow God to keep creating us.”
Charles had been waiting for a sign and missed the whisper–the whisper of Lillian’s loneliness, the whisper of an abiding love he had been denying. The fantasy of a wholly average life had been more frightening than contending with his sense of failing at vows made twenty years ago. He had been too busy following a list of rules like the many parishioners he once condemned, but he realized his love for Lillian was his love for God; one need not be a rival to the other. He could serve God best by loving her completely.
As if she had heard his thoughts, Lillian said, “He whispered to me. He told me my vigil’s over. Lew doesn’t need me.”
Charles handed her the treetop star. “I do.”
Standing on her toes, she managed to plant the star. Afterward, they plugged in the lights and shared a prayer of thanksgiving.
Christmastide: Feast of the Epiphany
Although Raphael left the parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels Parish to ponder their mysterious impersonator–a tale that, like most, would grow in the telling, his thoughts did not stray far from Lillian. He continued to listen, still bemused by her missing prayer, and on the last day of Christmas, he heard an unfamiliar plea coming from that familiar place.
He arrived in the evening hours to find Lillian had made a Magi cake, a sweet dessert with a touch of sour cream and cinnamon. Music played and a decorated tree twinkled nearby, and though Raphael lacked any ability to indulge in the sensuality around him, he was nonetheless aware of the heated affections arising from Charles and Lillian as they embraced on the couch.
With their food finished, they shared wine and a discussion that inflamed their hearts and their bodies, and later, Lillian writhed in ecstatic union with Charles. As they raced toward bliss, becoming as one flesh, Raphael finally heard it–a tiny voice speaking from Lillian’s heart, the sound of hope, a prayer.
Raphael felt great relief. He was no longer needed, but he paused to share the moment of grace.
Though bonds of love and desire held Charles and Lillian together, they still faced a difficult future, but Raphael knew they would soon have another reason and even more love with which to meet that future.
In a few months, after they were married and living in Kansas City, Lillian would contemplate a change in her career from composing collections of romantic poetry to creating enchanting children’s stories, and Charles would contemplate becoming a “father” in a way he had never imagined.
Copyright © 2006 Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved.