tagNonHumanRaven of the City: A Christmas Tale

Raven of the City: A Christmas Tale

bysojournerwolf©

originally published in BloodMoon January 2002 issue

“You look lost.”

Her head snaps around, away from the seething cul-de-sac down the street. Lank blonde hair that might be pretty--if washed and combed--slithers across her wind chapped face. Dark blue eyes widen as if with faint recognition. He’s not surprised. He’s been watching as she’s wandered the neighborhood, most recently that afternoon when she stumbled away from the street mission door, cheeks flaming and eyes streaming.

Her eyes drop to the clerical collar about his throat. He sidles in front of her, a buoy bobbing between the shallows of Old Towne and the deep end of “the Zone” where prostitutes ply their trade in symbiosis with strip joints, sex clubs and other adult entertainment establishments.

“Easy to do, here in Old Towne,” he continues, “ I suspect whoever planned these streets must’ve let their kids use the blueprints for scratch paper.”

Cracked, though wide and generous, lips hesitantly smile.

“Doing some last minute Christmas shopping? So was I.” He gestures at the curio and antique stores around them. The garish holiday decorations and tinny stream of festive music seem somehow strangely akin to the everyday displays just two blocks further east.

“I was about to warm myself with a little coffee,” he says, nodding to a small café nearby. “Would you care to join me?”

She hunches down into a grimy gray coat too light for protection against a sharp bite of wind worrying the first flakes of a coming storm. He waits with patient regard until she nods her head once, sharply.

Taking her arm, he tells her, “My name is Charles, most folks just call me Brother Chuck. And you are?”

“Mel--Melanie.”

“Melanie,” Brother Chuck repeats, “a lovely name.”

She clings to his arm with the tenacity of someone drowning. They turn their backs on the seductive invitation of neon lights and heavy bass music seeping from the Zone.

Despite the Friday night crowd, twenty bucks slipped to the headwaiter quickly finds them a table. Melanie glances furtively at people laughing, talking, eating. Her eyes almost close as if the clink of silverware were some nearly celestial music. Brother Chuck’s stomach faintly rumbles; he can imagine how Melanie must feel.

“Late as it is, you know, I do believe I’m ready for dinner,” Brother Chuck says as he picks up a menu. “Please, feel free to order something. My treat,” he smiles, “a small recompense for your charming company.”

Melanie all but snatches up the extra menu, then hesitates. She raises her eyes with a ghost of a smile. “Thank you.”

As her eyes devour the menu, Brother Chuck studies the young woman. Despite ragged clothes and evident weariness, she possesses an almost ethereal loveliness. Skin, apart from the effects of the winter, is clear and pale. The chin of her heart shaped face arches into a jaw line showing little softness but detracting nothing from her appeal. Lashes almost too long to be real hide her haunting indigo blue eyes.

Without looking up from the menu, Melanie slips off the jacket. Her movements are fluid, befitting a body lithe rather than thin. Well formed if medium size breasts—sans bra, Brother Chuck notes almost absently--press against her thin sweater.

He guesses she’s a cheerleader or, with that feline grace, involved in some sort of gymnastics.

Suddenly, he realizes Melanie is looking at him, blushing slightly at his concentration. Brother Chuck smiles harmlessly and beckons the waiter. The young woman orders hamburger and fries as Brother Chuck expected she would. He chooses a roast beef with side salad for himself.

The waiter leaves. Brother Chuck leans forward. He knows she’ll find it harder to flee while anticipating the food than when it actually arrives.

“Melanie, you weren’t really Christmas shopping, were you?”

She bites her lip so hard, Brother Chuck wonders that it doesn’t bleed. After a moment’s trembling, Melanie shakes her head.

“How old are you, Melanie?”

She replies almost inaudibly, “Eighteen.” Into the dubious silence, she adds, “As of,” she hesitates, “a week ago.”

Then come the tears and an all too familiar story. A small town princess discovering the looks and charm that eased her way through high school meant very little in the larger realm of a city university. Falling in with the wrong crowd, grades slipping as she cut classes until suspended. And, of course, there was a boy…Brother Chuck believes he can guess the end of that story. Still, he listens with the grave, kindly air of someone who has heard it all before, but is never unmoved until Melanie’s shrinking spirit seems squeezed dry of words.

“You haven’t told your folks yet, have you?”

“I, I can’t. Not after all the sacrifices they’ve made, all they’ve hoped for me…,” She looks at Brother Chuck helplessly. “I don’t know what to do.”

Their food arrives. The waiter raises an eyebrow at Melanie’s evident distress and then at Brother Chuck. Five bucks finds its way into the waiter’s green vest. He nods and disappears.

“Well,” Brother Chuck says, “first thing we can do is eat.”

“I don’t think I can,” Melanie says in a low voice.

He shrugs. “Would be a pity to let the chef’s hard work go to waste, don’t you think?” He inhales deeply. “And it all smells so good.”

Leaning forward again, Brother Chuck says softly, “Child, you are not without friends. The One who knows when even the least sparrow falls has not forgotten you.” His smile hints at some hidden humor; it’s one of his favorite lines.

Melanie looks up at him, eyes brimming around what appears to be a faint strand of hope.

“I’ve little doubt our meeting today was any accident,” he tells her with confident veracity.

“You’ll help me?” Melanie asks, hesitantly

“Yes, child. I will help you. First,” Brother Chuck adds, reaching for the condiments, “by handing you the ketchup.”

Melanie begins to pick at her food, though soon she’s shoveling it in as if the meal might escape in the shadow of the fork. Brother Chuck chatters with deliberate inanity while silently approving of her resilience. She’ll need it for what lies ahead. Yet, Brother Chuck knows that, with his guidance, she’ll be just fine. After all, it’s what he does best.

After they finish their meal, with a huge chocolate sundae for the girl, Brother Chuck pays up, tips generously and escorts Melanie outside.

“Do you have a place to stay this evening?” he asks as snow dances about them, melting upon Melanie’s cheek like tears of the night.

She looks down. “No,” she says at last. “The shelter--“

“Is full,” Brother Chuck nods. “Yes, I thought as much, considering the season.” He pauses as if thinking, then says, “I’ve a small house my congregation provides for me with a spare bedroom. I’m sure you’d be comfortable there and tomorrow we can decide what to do next.”

“Is that all right,” Melanie asks in a tone innocent as the swirling snow before it hits the streets. “I mean…” she gestures at his collar.

Brother Chuck chuckles. “Oh, child. I’m no priest.” Before she can question too closely, he continues, “I’m of another faith and yes, it will be fine. My housekeeper lives there as well. You’ll like her. She’s like everybody’s favorite granny.” Again his lips twitch, as if at some hidden irony.

They hurry through thinning crowd and thickening snow. Four blocks west, they turn the corner to Vine Street. “Holy Row”, they call it in Old Towne. Churches large and small, a Masonic Temple and a Christian Science Reading Room vie for attention among a few small rentals and parsonages. Around the corner, nestled between the sprawling Rejoice, Inc. complex and a squat clapboard building styling itself “The Truth Mission”, is a modest beige bungalow.

Brother Chuck fumbles for the keys to let them inside. The small living room is comfortably furnished. Flowered curtains adorn the windows; the carpet has seen wear, but still looks presentable. Armchairs and a large sofa of brownish, nubby fabric surround a sturdy if unremarkable coffee table on which a large Bible lays open.

“Grace,” Brother Chuck calls as they enter. “Grace, are you here?”

With a puzzled expression on his face, he ushers Melanie inside and carefully locks the door behind them.

“A sad thing, but wise in this neighborhood,” he assures Melanie somberly. He looks around again until his eyes light upon a folded piece of paper in the Bible.

“What’s this,” he asks, picking it up and opening it. “Oh, my,” Brother Chuck says, reading the note, “Grace says her daughter’s gone into labor and she had to go to the hospital.”

He looks at Melanie whose face hints at apprehension. Brother Chuck hands her the paper. “She says she may be there a while but expects to be home either late tonight or sometime tomorrow.”

Melanie barely glances at the note as he adds, “The last time her daughter went into labor, Grace ended up going back and forth to the hospital for three days.”

He acts as if he does not hear the Melanie’s soft sigh as if of relief.

“I bet,” Brother Chuck says, “that a good hot bath or shower would be just the thing to take the chill off.”

The girl manages a rueful grin. “I guess I am pretty stinky at that. But, these are the only clothes I have.”

Brother Chuck smiles. “Not to worry, child.” From his bedroom, he fetches a thick velour robe and oversize tee shirt.

“’Fraid I don’t have much in the way of pj’s but these should do until Grace gets home. Just leave your things in the hamper and Grace will do them in the morning.”

Melanie hesitates at the bathroom door. “Sir--“

Brother Chuck raises his hand. “Brother Chuck, please.”

“Brother Chuck,” she says as if trying to find just the right words. “I don’t know how to thank you for, for everything.”

Brother Chuck puts a fatherly hand on Melanie’s shoulder. “No need to thank me,” he says gently. “It’s what I’m here for. I’ll make some hot cocoa while you’re bathing. You like hot cocoa?”

Melanie’s radiant smile is like that of a child discovering a forgotten present under the Christmas tree. She nods vigorously and heads into the bathroom.

Humming, Brother Chuck goes into the kitchen and prepares the cocoa from a special homemade mixture. He fixes himself a cup of instant coffee, though he’d really rather have some coke. Brother Chuck opens a package of cookies purchased earlier that day and arranges them on a plate. He listens for the shower to stop and the hand held hair dryer to start, then pours the drinks. Carrying mugs and cookie plate to the living room, Brother Chuck meets Melanie coming out of the bathroom. Her hair is fairer and fuller when clean, with a faint hint of natural body wave. Even devoid of make up, she’s lovely, her skin still pink from the shower’s heat.

“There,” Brother Chuck says with a broad grin, “bet you feel a lot better.”

Melanie laughs. “Yes, I do.”

Brother Chuck sits the tray on the coffee table and hands Melanie the cocoa.

“Chocolate chip cookies,” Melanie all but squeals as she plops onto the couch beside him. “My favorites.” She picks one up and takes a bite.

Brother Chuck allows her time to wallow in the ecstasy of chocolate before asking questions. Around bites of cookie, Melanie talks freely about high school and friends, chattering the way of someone who thought all hope lost but has found a savior. It’s not so much what she says, as how she answers to which Brother Chuck listens, seeking clues on how to guide her towards his own idea of salvation.

Melanie looks around, then back at Brother Chuck. “Aren’t you married,” she asks with the bluntness of youth, “or doesn’t your church let you marry?”

Brother Chuck’s smile slips just a fraction. He sighs. “Yes, we’re allowed to marry,” he says at last. “And I was married, for seven wonderful years.” To Melanie’s unspoken question he nods sadly. “She was taken from me not too long ago.” He picks up a picture from the coffee table of a young woman with an impish grin. “In fact, this month would have been our anniversary.”

Melanie lays a hand on Brother Chuck’s arm. “I’m so sorry.”

Brother Chuck pats Melanie’s hand. “We were happy together. Had hoped to have children, but,” he shrugs, “it wasn’t possible.”

The silence lingers as if gathering momentum. Melanie stifles a yawn.

“You must be exhausted, Melanie. Let me show you to your room.”

Melanie obediently follows him, holding his hand like a child.

“Good night,” he says, and bestows a kiss on the top of her head before carefully closing the door.

Back in his own bedroom, Brother Chuck unfastens the collar. The suit he hangs carefully. Times have been tough of late, and he only has one. Naked, he stalks into the master bathroom. He catches sight of himself in the mirror as he reaches in to turn on the shower.

Not bad, he thinks, not bad at all for someone who spent six weeks of the past three months laid up in a hospital. Brother Chuck notices the gray at his temples looks a little yellow and the brown on top a bit faded. He realizes he’ll have to do something about that soon.

Steam billows, obscuring the mirror. He steps into the hot spray and washes, carefully around the relatively fresh scar tissue on his left shoulder and side. Just as gingerly, he towels off.

He finds a second robe--one of silky material and brief--hangs it on the hook of his bedroom door for later. A pack of cigarettes and ashtray come out of the nightstand before he props himself up on the bed to consider what will come next. His contemplation is interrupted by a soft knock on the door. He raises an eyebrow at the intrusion, but is not at all displeased.

“Yes?”

The door slowly opens. Faint light from the hallway outlines Melanie’s supple curves through the almost sheer tee.

“I, I couldn’t sleep.”

“I understand.” With studied casualness he draws the sheet up low over his hips. He pats the bed beside him.

Like an animal torn between curiosity and fear, Melanie approaches. She sits, primly, on the edge of the bed, facing away from him.

“What seems to be the problem, Melanie?”

“I don’t,” she hesitates, “know. I, I started to doze off and, and well, before I was even really asleep, just sort of drowsy,, I started to,” her voice takes on a ragged edge, “to dream.”

“Nightmares?”

“Yes,” she says, pauses, “no. Maybe…,” Melanie buries her face in her hands, “Oh, I don’t know!”

Moving slowly, he kneels behind the young woman. At the touch of his hands upon her shoulders, Melanie starts, as if to bolt, but those large, firm hands hold her in place. Gently, he begins to knead her shoulders.

“What kind of dreams, Melanie?”

Her tension seems to war with the soothing feel of warm, skillful touch melting away her anxiety.

“What kind of dreams,” he asks again, his voice insistent yet sultry.

“I, I,” Melanie turns abruptly, burying her head in his chest, sobbing. “Oh, Brother Chuck.”

Her body is cooler than he expects given what was in that cocoa. Yet there is no doubt in the hardness of her nipples pressing against him through the thin cotton. Melanie’s hands relax their initial grip and glide along the long muscles of his back. He feels her lips open against his throat, her tongue flickering out to taste his flesh.

Abruptly, Melanie pulls back, her eyes wide with apparent horror. “Oh, my God…what am I doing? Brother Chuck, I, I didn’t mean--“

His arms draw her back again, to feel her tears against his chest.

“Shh, Melanie. There’s no need to fear or be ashamed.” He holds her by the shoulders so he can look into her eyes. Dark blue eyes that seem to be without whites, all but glowing in the darkness.

“I, too, have been thinking of why our paths crossed. I cannot but help but believe it was His Will. Yet, I have asked myself why, again and again.”

Hanging his head as if in shame, he says in a low voice, “Since my wife died, I have not been…a man. Indeed, I have felt nothing but a void within, no desire for woman, yea, hardly even desire to live.

“Then, there was you. At first, I thought, perhaps, it was just that I might help you. Yet, it seemed there must be something else. I, I must tell you. I have seen you often of late, even followed you, drawn by what I knew not.”

He nods at Melanie’s wide eyed stare. “Yes, I followed, to see you came to no harm. And while I followed, I felt…something I had not felt in a long time. And then, tonight…”

He slowly uncovers himself. His member rises hard, strong, seeming to vibrate between them. Melanie stares at it as if in wonder.

“Behold,” he declares, “My burden has been lifted. Yea, I know again what it is to be a man. And all because of you, dear, dear Melanie,” he adds, his voice dropping, but no less intense.

“But, this, this is wrong,” Melanie says, though weakly. Her hand reaches out as if to touch, then draws back.

“How can it be wrong, little dove,” he coos, “if we have been led to this time and place, and the gift of comfort through pleasure that is our right as His Children?”

Taking her hand, he places it lightly upon his shaft. “Feel the burning there, my child? Feel the ache of loneliness that has been lifted from me? Feel the hunger, a hunger I know you feel as well. Desire to give and receive joy “

As if mesmerized, Melanie slips off the bed and kneels beside it. Her hands come together on either side of his cock, like a child might say their bedtime prayers. He leans back upon his heels, spreading his thighs. Hesitantly, Melanie’s mouth draws closer. He can feel her breath upon him for what seems an eternity, before she finally lays her lips upon the tip of his prick.

“Yes,” he urges, “touch, taste, know that you and you alone are the one who has been brought to me, that we might share together the pleasure of His greatest gift.”

He sighs as Melanie’s tongue laps an oily drip from the slit of his knob. Her mouth opens wider and she draws him in, slowly, almost ritualistically.

In the darkness, Brother Chuck a.k.a. Reverend Raunch a.k.a. the Preacher Pimp a.k.a. Charlie Cooper grins. The bad boys in Chi town may have run him off, even dammed near killed him, but he has found near virgin territory here in the Old Towne neighborhood of Ste. Germaine. As Melanie sucks him, moistly moving up and down his cock, he reflects on his good fortune. He’s already strong armed two of the whores down in “the Zone” into accepting him as their pimp. They’re older than he prefers for his stable, but they’ve provided him enough income to set up this little scam.

And if what he’s heard on the streets is right, he’s the only pimp there. Yeah, there’s some stupid urban legend as to why, something involving ravens or such shit, but he’s already figured out the bitches there started that to horde all the money for themselves.

He groans softly as Melanie’s tongue flickers like flame along his smoldering log, as much from the thought of becoming the big daddy in Ste. Germaine as Melanie’s ministrations.

Damn, he thinks, she‘s good! He’s run young meat before, but always had to train them. If she can fuck like she sucks, he tells himself, I’ll get top dollar for this prime pussy.

He puts his hands on Melanie’s head, dragging her onto the bed. She whimpers like a puppy wanting teat. Laying back, Chuck pulls her on top of him. She all but rips the t-shirt off. His eyes gleam as he watches her breasts bounce free of the fabric, a bit on the small side, maybe, but no less luscious and eager.

She grabs his cock and guides it into her. Chuck grunts at her moist, tight grip. He reaches for her breasts, squeezing, rubbing her nipples with his thumbs. Her writhing moans cause him to drop one hand to her cunt.

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