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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


6. Chapter 6 Many Mysteries

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2844   Review this Chapter

Bella

“Bella, order up!”

It was another night at Ray’s Diner. The fluorescent lights gleamed off the glass and chrome of the diner’s décor.

I walked over to the pass-through window and grabbed the plates for the couple at stools six and seven. Pancakes with bacon and a burger with fries, no tomato. “Thanks, Frank.” I acknowledged to the man behind the window.

He wiped his forehead with his forearm, the spatula still in his hand. “We’re 86 on the meatloaf special.”

Arlene heard him as she passed down the narrow aisle behind the counter. “Well, thank heavens for small favors.” She rolled her eyes, smiling a bit at me. Arlene had worked here for four years, which was most likely a record, and felt free to give the cooks as much sass as she wanted. She was a petite red-haired woman, who wore her hair up in a tight, complicated bun. Having just separated from husband number two, she was raising two teenage boys by herself.

I laid the plates down in front of the couple, who murmured their thanks. “Need anything else?” I asked, pushing the catsup closer to them.

“Nope, thanks. I think we’re all set.”

I headed back down the aisle to see Frank point the spatula at Arlene. “Don’t start.”

“Come on, Frank,” she cajoled him, as she poured glasses of milk. “You’ve been pushing that meatloaf for two days. Ethan here is the only one that’ll eat it.”

Ethan, our teenaged dishwasher, looked up from his seat on the stool at the end of the counter, his face still flushed from working in the dish room out back. His whites were stained and dirty from his long shift, and he was shoveling in that meatloaf special like it was his grandmother’s holiday cooking. He was redheaded like Arlene, but in his case, it didn’t come from a bottle. The freckles sprayed across his face attested to his natural coloration. “It’s good,” he protested around a mouthful.

“It’s okay, honey,” Arlene said as she passed him, patting his head with the hand that wasn’t holding the tray. “Someday, you’ll know better.”

I totaled the check for the couple at booth twelve and brought it over to them. “Anything else I can get you?”

They were a young couple; I guessed Hispanic by the warm color of their skin and her thick black hair. Next to the woman on the seat was a baby carrier with pink padding. Inside of it, a beautiful caramel colored baby was sleeping, her short silky hair adorned with a pink lacy bow. She had thick lashes that pressed against her full cheeks, and her full pouty mouth was slightly open. Her small chubby fist rested on the outside of the blankets, and it was the sight of that sweet little hand that made it suddenly hard for me to swallow.

“No, thank you. Just the check, please,” the man answered with an accent. He was darkly tanned and was thin and wiry in a way that suggested he’d done a lot of outdoor labor.

I tore my eyes away from the baby. “That’s a beautiful baby you have there,” I said, picking up the empty dishes from their table.

The woman flashed me a smile that made her somewhat plain face light up with pride. She looked with maternal love at the sleeping infant beside her. “Thank you.”

I turned away before she could see my face and walked through the swinging door into the back, dumping the dishes in the dish room. Ethan was out front so I knew I had a moment alone back here. I grabbed the edge of the sink to steady myself and took a deep breath. Blessed Mary, Mother of all that is holy, give me the strength to bear my penance with grace and dignity. Once again I beg your forgiveness and ask for the courage to lead the life I have been granted in step with Christ’s teachings. Keep me from evil and let me stay within the circle of God’s light.

Arlene pushed through the doors. She took in my bowed head and the way I was clutching the counter’s edge. Putting a hand on my back, she asked, “You all right, honey?”

I took another deep breath and turned around, managing what I was sure was a rather half-hearted smile. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, trying to make myself believe it.

She frowned and reached out to touch my check gently. “Then how come you’re crying?” she asked softly, holding up a finger that was wet with a tear I hadn’t realized had escaped.

I turned and started stacking some dishes. “Did you see that baby on twelve?”

“Sure,” she said softly.

“Sometimes it hurts, knowing that’s something I’ll never have.” Solemnly, I looked at her, willing myself not to let go of my control.

I was almost undone by the way her face softened as she put a comforting hand on my arm. “Oh, honey, I didn’t know…”

Frank stuck his head in through the door. “Hey! Can we get some waitresses out here where the customers are?”

“Shut the fuck up, Frank,” Arlene retorted over her shoulder. “We’ll be out in a goddamn second.”

Frank’s eyebrows rose; he wasn’t used to Arlene kicking it up to that level. Abashed, he withdrew and the door swung back.

I shook my head. ‘I didn’t mean to dump on you, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Bella,” she said, pulling me into her arms for a hug. “That ain’t dumping. It’s okay. Life will work out, some way. You’ll see, honey”

I hugged her back, flooded with affection for her. She reminded me a bit of Renee, in that she was the kind of person who always said what was on her mind-always ready to share or give a hand. I knew she wasn’t a churchgoer, but she was the kind of person that Christ talked about as the salt of the earth. “I suppose we should get out front before Frank has a cow,” I said.

“Well, if he did, it’d be tomorrow’s special,” she said tartly, leading us out the door.

The rest of my shift passed uneventfully and things were slowing down when the front door of the diner opened and Father Brian walked in. I immediately started smiling; he was my priest and my confessor, but even more than that, he was my rescuer. He was dressed casually this morning in khaki pants while the black and white of his priests’ collar peeked out from beneath the blue collar of his work shirt. He was young for a priest, in his mid-thirties, with sandy hair receding slightly from his forehead and light blue eyes in a tanned face. His muscular build and thick forearms led people to believe he was a construction foreman, until they saw the collar.

“Good morning, Father,” I said, walking up the aisle as he took his customary stool at the top of the counter. It was he who had gotten me this job.

“Good morning, Bella.” His eyes crinkled appealingly as he smiled. “How’s my favorite waitress this morning?” It was morning even though the sun wouldn’t rise for another three hours.

Arlene came up behind me, reaching for the coffee cups. “Now, I thought I was your favorite waitress,” she teased him.

“Oh, you’re my favorite redheaded waitress,” he responded back. “Bella is my favorite brunette waitress.”

“Wiggled your way out of that one,” Arlene said. “But just barely,” she admonished him before heading back down the aisle.

“What can I get you?” I asked him.

“Just coffee today, thanks, Bella.” He ran his hand over his short crew cut.

I brought a cup over to him. “So, how are things on the streets today?” Father Brian worked outreach with the homeless many nights, taking the sick to hospitals or clinics, helping addicts find a spot in rehab, or just ministering to the lost and abandoned that wandered Seattle’s streets.

He shook his head. “Not good. Kid got shot over on 14th Street this morning.” His face reflected his distaste for the violence and bloodshed.

That was just two blocks away. “Wow,” I said, stunned that it was so close.

“The gangs are at it again,” he said, reaching for the sugar. “It’s not good.”

Frank had wandered out from the kitchen area, the apron that covered his substantial gut speckled with grease. The post-bar rush was over and we wouldn’t start picking up until sunrise. I checked the clock; my shift would end in another half hour.

“Hey, Father,” Frank greeted him, “I think we had some of those boys in last night.”

“Well, be careful,” Father Brian warned, stirring his coffee. “They’re trigger happy, what with everything that’s been going on.”

“Don’t worry,” Frank said. “I’ve got friends.” He pulled out the baseball bat that he kept under the cabinets and smacked it a few times into his palm.

Arlene came up behind him. “Well, that’s not going to do you a whole lot of good against a gun,” she pointed out.

“This has chased out many troublemakers, I’ll have you know,” he said with a scowl, putting the bat away.

“Yeah, almost as many as your meatloaf.” Arlene rolled her eyes while the Father and I snickered.

Frank spun around to face her. “What in God’s name do you have against my meatloaf?” “Oh, sorry, Father,” he apologized over his shoulder.

Father Brian waved it off as Arlene led Frank down the aisle. “Well, for one, you use too many capers…”

“You got that truck of yours back on the road, yet?” Father Brian asked me.

“No,” I replied, wiping at the counter. “It’s going to need a new engine, so I am on foot for the time being.”

“I can hook you up with a good mechanic, if you need one,” he offered.

I shook my head, a stab of pain reminding me that I used to have a good mechanic—Jake. I wouldn’t be using him anymore. “You’ve already done so much for me…”

I owed Father Brian so much. He had found me in the hospital, recovering from yet another staff infection, while the doctors were debating whether they would have to remove my uterus completely or whether to try to repair itit enough so I could keep it, even if it wasn’t functional in the traditional sense. While I had been desperate and grieving, eaten up by guilt and shame, he held my hand when Charlie came to tell me the news of Renee’s death. That was the first time I had ever prayed out loud with somebody.

He had saved me in every way that counted and how do you thank somebody for that? His innate goodness and his passion for Christ had brought me to the waters of the church for which I would forever be grateful. This man walked in Christ’s footsteps; that much I was certain.

“Well, I can at least give you a ride home. What time do you get out?” he asked.

“Well, soon,” I said, looking at the clock.

“Why don’t you all go on, honey?” Arlene spoke up. “It’s slow tonight. I’ll finish up the condiments.”

“You don’t mind?” I asked her, glad at the thought of not having to walk the two miles home.

“Not a bit,” she said, smiling

“Give me just a few minutes, and I’ll be ready,” I promised Father Brian and started getting my end of shift work done.

He raised his coffee cup. “Take your time.”

Ten minutes later, I pulled on my sweater and came around the front of the counter. “I’m ready,” I said breathlessly.

We said good night to Arlene and Frank and I climbed into the van Father Brian drove.

“Thanks again,” I reiterated as he turned the ignition.

“No problem,” he said, backing out of the parking space. “I don’t like to see you on the streets walking this late.”

He pulled out into the street and started for my house. “I heard from the Monsignor about your fainting spell.”

“Oh, that,” I said, a bit embarrassed and unsure of his reaction after the Monsignor’s negative one.

“He says you imagined an angel.” He searched my face for a moment before turning back to the road.

I looked down at my hands. “I didn’t just imagine him. He was there.”

He looked at me expectantly.

“I don’t remember too much, but he was beautiful. Like a human, but perfect.”

Father Brian smiled at me.

I sighed. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

He shook his head. “I would never gainsay someone else’s experience with the supernatural, Bella. The important thing is whether you believe.”

“Oh, I do. I do. He was so beautiful and so sad. When I looked in his eyes…” How could I tell Father Brian the feelings that angel had created in me? I felt myself blushing as I remembered the erotic fantasy I’d had concerning him. It must be wrong to feel about Edward in that kind of way, right? I was grateful for the darkness of the van; the dashboard lights were not enough to give me away. “They were golden,” I whispered. “His eyes were golden.”

“Did he have a message for you?”

“No,” I said, frowning and trying to remember. “He said he couldn’t hear me. And that I smelled good.”

“You smelled good?” he asked, smiling.

I giggled. It sounded ludicrous when spoken out loud. “I know it sounds crazy, but ...” I struggled to find the words. “Have you ever felt there was a moment in your life when your whole existence hinged on what happened in those precise seconds? Like fate was watching you with its breath held?”

“I felt something like that when I knew I had been called to the church,” he said thoughtfully.

I was quiet, thinking about the feeling of expectancy that was coursing through me. Suddenly, I knew with a certainty that rocked me that I would see Edward again. Somehow, some way.

“There are many strange things in the world, Bella. God has many mysteries to reveal,” he said, turning onto Madison Street. “But I need to caution you; be sure that what you see is truly from God.”

“I will,” I promised. I shook my head. “Why me?” I wondered.

“Why not you?” he replied. “You are a child of the Light. You recognize the value of love.” He searched for words. “There is an innate grace in you, Bella. You seek truth. That is less common than you’d think.”

I pursed my lips. “I don’t feel very full of grace,” I said disparagingly. “Jake came to see me yesterday.”

“Oh?” he questioned, knowing my history with Jake.

“He wanted to say he was sorry for not coming to see me in the hospital.”

“Do you think he was?”

“Was what?’

“Truly sorry.”

I knew Jake well enough to say yes to that, but I hated his inability to tell me what was going on in his life that had been and still was affecting him so much. “Yes,” I finally answered. “I’ve tried forgiving him. I just haven’t been very successful.”

“You’re still angry with him.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, nodding my head.

“Pray for him,” he said simply.

“I’ve tried that,” I replied.

He pulled into the driveway of my duplex, shifted the van into park, and then turned to me. “No, Bella. Really pray for him, for his well-being every night. Your prayers may not affect his life, but they will transform yours.”

I sat still for a moment. The darkness was giving me courage I didn’t normally have. “I need to ask you something, Father.”

“Of course.”

“Do you think what happened to me was punishment for what I’d done?” This was a question that had haunted me for some time. Had God chosen me to wreak vengeance on because of the abortion?

He sighed. “I don’t know God’s mind, Bella. But I believe God loves us, all of us. He wants good things for all of us, you included.”

“Well, thank you,” I said, putting my hand on the door handle. “Will you be hearing confessions this week?”

“Thursday morning and then Friday night.”

I got out of the van. “I’ll talk to you then, I guess. Thank you for the ride.”

“My pleasure, Bella. Have a good night.”

“You, too,” I said and then shut the door.

I prayed that night for a long while. I prayed that Jake would find happiness and I asked for the forgiveness of the long list of my sins. I prayed for Charlie, that he would find a loving relationship with Sue Clearwater, and that he could come to terms with my new choices. I prayed for Renee’s soul, and that despite her lapsed status, that she be allowed a place in heaven.

I prayed longest for Edward and for Christ to accompany him on whatever mission he was on and grant him success.