A Question of Divine Autonomy
How he wanted her. With every core of his being he wanted to take her in his arms and possess her: fuck the church and its doctrine. It was long past the point where he cared for canon of either sort, human or scriptural.
Dead from the neck down…
Well, not quite, and it had been perfectly obvious that his anatomy below the waist was in full working order when she had kissed him. That surge of desire, almost painful in its unaccustomed intensity made him want to take her right there and then. The heady, overpowering scent of jasmine blossom, infused with the waves of heat emanating from Frankie’s excited body were enough to send his senses whirling with long forgotten yearning.
In fact, it had been the scent of the flowers that had stopped him, stayed his wandering hands, if you will. The softness of her warm lips was intoxicating, and for the briefest of moments, he’d surrendered to her kiss. It had been a long, long time since Andrew Kiernan had kissed a woman, but Frankie’s mouth had fitted his as if it was meant to be. Instinctively he pulled her closer for the briefest of moments, his brain devoid of all reason.
And, God, that kiss…it had been an exquisitely painful torture of pure pleasure. Andrew knew that any test of his faith before that moment had been as insignificant as the sting of a mosquito-now, he was as powerless as a moth, heading perilously close to the flame of his own desire. It took every inch of his willpower to pull away from her, and even then he knew he had lingered in her heated embrace too long.
I wasn’t born a priest…
In fact, he’d had his fair share of earthly pleasures as a student at Queen’s University in Belfast studying the sciences. Nights spent trawling University Road, chasing cheap beer and flirting with the serious-minded females of the Faculty of Arts were well remembered. His Irish heritage had provided him with a warm blooded, hot headed and passionate nature, and for a time he’d indulged himself in many ways. There was a time in Andrew Kiernan’s life when he’d liked nothing more than a pint of Guinness, a roll in the hay and a cigarette afterwards. Then, slowly, faith, that other great stalwart of the Irish heritage, had subsumed at least one of those desires. Sex gave way to sanctity, and with it, a kind of solitude.
Over the years, he’d struggled at times with the craving, that raw need for human contact, but he’d always managed to submerge his desires in his quest for knowledge. The church had a reputation for attracting outcasts and closet homosexuals, and as a result, for the first five years of his service, his time had been spent warding off the rather too intense friendships of both groups. Although his travels for the Vatican took him far and wide, he had almost managed to, if not forget the part of him that was man, then control his desires. Of course, waking in the middle of the night like a guilt ridden school boy, his erection straining against the cotton sheets, it was inevitable that his desires, his need for human contact, would eventually overrule his judgement.
That was why he’d taken the job as scientific investigator for the Vatican when it had appeared. Much as he loved his own country, Andrew was not the type to settle into a country parish in Galway, courted by the well meaning pensioners and lonely housewives of a small hamlet. He needed challenge, excitement; and the best way for him to get that was in the challenge of scientific reasoning.
Church full of virgins and eunuchs…
He was certainly no virgin; although he knew plenty of priests who’d entered the church as much out of a fear of women as from having a calling to serve. He wasn’t one of them. He’d loved wisely, unwisely and too well over the years, and had his fair share of sex. And although Frankie might consider him essentially a eunuch, the pull in his loins when she kissed him definitely suggested otherwise.
Andrew had known he was lost to her from the moment she had caressed the back of his neck in the salon. He’d fought, prayed even, for his own soul, but he had been irresistibly drawn to her. Even when he’d told that the church couldn’t help her, he had known, somehow that he, himself could. And that she, inevitably would be both his salvation and his damnation.
He knew she was fascinated by his calling, even though she didn’t share his devotion; the conversation over a beer that had turned so suddenly into a horrifying bloodbath as the third stigmatic wound took hold had shown him that. Her curiosity was something he’d begun to love about her.
Now she slept; calm, innocent. Andrew raised a hand and traced one of the lines of the gashes on her forehead. Three hours ago she had been healing; now her hair was a mess of drying blood and sweat, her body a mass of bruises.
He himself was also rather the worse for wear. He still didn’t know if it was demonic or divine possession that Frankie had suffered, and for a moment he pondered whether that actually made a difference. Wincing, he shifted position slightly as he felt the warning twinge of his sciatic nerve. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, he thought ruefully. Irrationally, an image crossed his mind of he and Frankie, and their children, and just how far apart they were in age. Frankie was currently a priest’s temptation; would she end up being just an old man’s folly?
That was the jolt that brought him to his senses. It was no use. He would have to admit it to himself some time and it might as well be now. He loved her. He loved her more than he loved his calling, and the day she had come into his life, the first time she had touched him, she had seared his soul. Could she ever be more than a Vatican-provoked curiosity in his life? Did she actually want him, or was it merely the voice of whatever possessed her speaking those words? If she actually knew what he was thinking, how he felt about her, would she just laugh in his face at his presumption?
He still was none the wiser. Her enigmatic “It’s OK, I won’t bite,” told him precisely nothing. He loathed himself for responding like an angst ridden teenager. He was a man of God, for pity’s sake; he should be above it all. He should be objective. Unfortunately, he was now anything but. If he was a truly objective witness to what was happening to Frankie, he wouldn’t be lying next to her on her bed at this very moment. His desire to protect her was anything but godly. He wanted her. Her vulnerability called out to him in a way no other person ever had, and yet it was more than that. For the first time in a long time, Andrew Kiernan knew he was feeling.