Bless Me FatherbyRobin P©
"Bless me Father, for I have sinned....."
The priest had heard the door shut quietly and settled into a comfortable position, ready to hear the usual liturgy of minor transgressions that would be forgiven with his scale of "Hail Mary's" by way of absolution. Twenty minutes later, and having received an education in the emergence of one of his parishioners from drudge to the exalted woman she now was, he was, for the first time in his life, unable to dispense a suitable punishment and suspected that the occupant of the booth, was not looking for forgiveness. The story he had listened to in silence, had taken him unprepared and, in truth, had found that little private place where he kept his erotic thoughts. Father Patrick, had a hard on, but forgave himself.
Mary had had a strict Catholic upbringing. As a child, she had grown up in the tied cottages of Enniskillen, third daughter to her Guinness loving Father and sixth child of her god-fearing mother. They never had much of anything. The money her Da' earned provided a meagre diet and just about kept a roof over their heads, although it leaked as did the second hand shoes, she and her siblings wore.
Mary somehow survived the afflictions that ravaged the population of Ireland and, apart from the inevitable tape worn and head lice, the skinny body, grew into adulthood.
The transition from child to adolescence wasn't without trauma. Mary had little in the way of formal education, only attending the Nuns charity classes at irregular intervals. Her knowledge of bodily functions, menstruation or anything at all to do with the mechanics of sex was sketchy, gleaned only from dirty photographs that did the rounds and innuendous conversations that alluded to the function of sex.
When her first period happened, she thought that her time was up, that God was punishing her for some misdemeanour. She thought she was going to die. It was a sister that noticed and tried to give her a quick biology lesson. Mary would rather have died than admit to her mother that she had a problem.
Approaching her seventeenth birthday, Mary visited her eldest sister in the Mercy Hospital after she had given birth to her third child. Teresa was only a year and a half older than Mary, but had developed a worldly knowledge of things carnal at an early age. She was cursed with good looks and found she liked the attention of the opposite sex. They may have been sisters, but there was a world of difference between them.
Mary had not inherited the striking eyes and hair, but looked dowdy, with mousy hair and a non-descript figure. It appealed to Tom, a porter at the hospital. Mary and Tom were married in a few months. All she had succeeded to do was replace her stern and often inebriated father with Tom, who was also often inebriated and beat her for the smallest things.
The beatings were never too harsh, a few bruises perhaps and once, a broken wrist when she had fallen, trying to protect her unborn child by instinctively putting out her hand and falling on top of it from the recoil of his slap. She fervently believed that God was still punishing her and would come up with any amount of sins to justify the harsh treatment. She must have deserved it, she reasoned, otherwise, why would it happen?
By the time Eileen was six, Tom had gone, taken off with a woman from out of town. Last Mary heard, he was heading towards England. Stoically, she found fault with herself and raised the shutters in her mind. Her energies were spent entirely on Eileen and the child's welfare.
They lived in the council flat that was a breading ground for cockroaches and every manner of ailment that a close community can engender. Mary worked part time, filling shelves at the supermarket and earned what few pence more she could, taking in laundry. Eileen was clean, her clothes were always clean and she gained an education of sorts at the local comprehensive. They were only separated once, shortly before Tom left, never to return. Mary suffered a miscarried pregnancy that resulted in the need for her ovaries to be removed. Mary blamed herself for the problem and thought that Tom had every right to leave as he did.
They managed to survive reasonably happily. Eileen grew into a striking young lady and then a beautiful teenager who found work and tried to ease the burden on her mother with a few pounds from her small wage.
But it all changed one day, it was this that the priest had listened to, hardly daring to breathe while it poured out from this woman he had known since his childhood.
Mary didn't get to go on the supermarket checkouts too often because of her lack of schooling. Although the automatic reader totalled up the balance and electronically told her how much she should take and what change she should give, Mary still struggled to count the right money and often made mistakes. This day however, that was to change her life irrevocably. Mary was sat at the express lane for baskets only.
She glanced at the customer, noticing only that he was male and his shopping was for one. He was unremarkable she processed his goods through the scanner and packed them into a carrier bag as she went. Took his money and offered the change. She would have instantly gone on to the next customer, but a rich vibrato voice informed her she had made a mistake and the hand that belonged to the voice was trying to return some coins that she had given. Mary began to fluster as she always did in these circumstances and in her panic, couldn't find the key to open the cash drawer.
Eventually, she fought for control of her senses and thanked him for his honesty while shutting the errant drawer. That was it really. Mary sat at the till for the rest of the day. Her unflattering light blue uniform covering her, with her hair savagely pulled back in a tight bun, unremarkable in her self and mostly unnoticeable to any observer.
Mary had taken to allowing herself the luxury of a cafe latte on her way home. It was perhaps, the only luxury she did have. Her usual table was empty and her conversation with the serving girl was restricted to her request for the foamy beverage. Mary revelled in her private thoughts and was oblivious of the rest of the world as it went about its business.
"Mind if I join you." There was something familiar about the rich tenor of the voice, but Mary merely nodded her consent and didn't look up.
"Looks like rain again." He remarked causally, "I don't know when summer is going to start do you?"
Mary looked up at the direct question and shook her head. She had never learned the niceties of conversation and preferred to stay quiet.
"Ah! I almost didn't recognise you. You're the girl at the checkout aren't you?" His smile creased his eyes and deepened the azure quality of the blue.
Mary blushed furiously, remembering him now and then associating him with her error.
"I...I'm sorry for the mistake." Her tremulous voice was barely audible over the hubbub of the coffee shop and nervously, she wrung her hands in her lap below the level of the table and beyond his sight. Her own eyes remained downcast and she wished that the floor would open up and swallow her, whole.
"Ah! No worries." He said easily, "We all make them don't we?"
She caught the movement of his hands as he used them to emphasise his words. She flinched, thinking he was about to strike her, he noticed the involuntary spasm and dropped his hands so they lay flat on the table, he consciously kept them there.
"I didn't get you name."
"Well hello Mary, it is a pleasure to meet you." She looked up sharply to see if he was making fun of her with condescension, but she met a pair of smiling eyes that, although creased with a smile, were not cruel in anyway. Her flush of anxiety was becoming one of something else and she started to fluster again.
"Where does Mary come from I wonder?" His question could have been taken in a mocking sense, but his smile told otherwise. "And I wonder what Mary is like away from the Supermarket?"
"I'm sure I don't know." She answered and then continued, "I have to go now."
"Ah! Now that is a shame so it is. Wouldn't you stay for another and keep a lone man company?" He indicated her half empty coffee cup as he asked the question.
Mary was mortified. Her total experience of men talking to her was her father, usually angry; her husband, also angry and usually drunk; her priest and the doctor, but him, only when she absolutely had to go. The Manager at the supermarket rarely said more than one or two words and that was it for verbal contact with the male of the species. She rushed from the table, colliding with the next in her haste to get away and leaving behind, a carrier bag with that night's dinner and a bemused man who wondered what on earth had gotten into the woman.
That night, as she lay in her bed, covered from head to toe in a flannelette nightgown and blankets pulled up to her chin, Mary dreamed. She dreamed of this stranger and in a completely naïve innocence, dreamt of his holding her in his arms, warm and protective. Sex was not part of her subconscious. It was an event that had happened on a few occasions when Tom stank of Guinness or whiskey. It had resulted in her lovely daughter and the removal of her ability to have children. Sex had never been a joyous explosion of feelings and nerve jangling climaxes. Sex was a sordid and shameful subject, only to be done to create a child. That was why Tom was right to leave. She couldn't give him children. It was all her fault.
"Hail Mary Mother of god..." Even in her sleep, Mary was completely subjugate to her religion and fervently believed herself to be the most loathsome woman ever to have disgraced his garden.
But, a seed of doubt had been sown. Someone had taken enough interest in her to talk and make an acquaintance.
They saw each other once or twice over the next few days. He bought her a coffee and she returned the compliment the very next time, not wanting to be beholding to anyone. Their conversation was more than a little stinted. Mary couldn't find the ways to articulate, unused to describing herself or her life, believing them to be uninteresting. She would rather have sat there, listening to him tell her of his travels around the world as a sailor in the Merchant Navy. Whole vistas of unimaginable scenes flowed around her mind as his narrative enticed and lured her out of her mundane and urban life to the tropics and the Far East.
Mary found herself looking critically in her bedroom mirror and realised that she was nothing at all to look at. Her clothing, although clean, was not fashionable in any century she knew of. She threw her blouse, skirt and underwear to the floor in disgust and then, hesitantly, looked critically at her naked body for the first time in her life.
Looking back at her was a slightly built woman, obviously approaching her forties, but had not been ruined by constant childbirth. Her hair, always a constant source of annoyance, was still pulled back and tightly wound into her normal bun. Mary pulled the pins and allowed her hair to cascade; pleased with the way it fell to below her shoulder blades and waved in natural curves. The mousy colour had deepened into a chestnut that had a rich lustre about it. She could hardly believe that it was her hair and was amazed at its length and vibrancy of colour. The only time it was unwound was when she washed it. Then, while wet, it appeared to be black and lank.
She skipped her face, not wanting to be too critical in her appraisal and looked at her breasts, noticing for the first time in her life, that the left one was slightly smaller than the right, but not too noticeably. Her bra size had remained the same since her wedding, 34 B cup. It was a good size she thought.
Her stomach was still quite firm and flat. You had to really look hard to see any stretch marks. She noticed a dark brown mole on her left hip and wondered when that had happened.
Mary's pubic area had a lush growth of hair, darker than her head that formed an almost perfect triangle, with slightly curved sides. She spent little time admiring that part of her body, but travelled to her legs. They were good legs by any one's reckoning. The skin was flawless and almost transparent in whiteness. Her musculature was clearly visible beneath the taut covering. Only a few hairs grew below her knee. Mary hated her feet. It was one of those irrational hatreds women have of their anatomy. With Mary, it was her feet. Apart from her hands, her feet were the only part of her body she had studied at any time.
All in all though, not a bad package she thought. She turned this way and that, trying to see what her behind looked like and marvelled in the swish of her hair as she turned and twisted.
Then Mary asked the reflection looking back at her. Why am I standing here admiring myself? What am I looking at? She didn't know the answer to either question and in her naivety, she was not aware that she was in preparation for a sexual encounter and was merely checking out the validity of what she was offering.
She looked at her legs again, remembering the only time she had worn a short skirt. She had only got to the foot of the stairs when her father screamed at her and tore the clothes from her back, repeating over and over as he beat her. Ye harlot ye, I'll learn yeah, ye harlot and Jezebel. It took Mary several years more to find out what a harlot was and who Jezebel was supposed to be. That was one thing she never forgave her father for. The beatings she thought she deserved, but never to be called anything like that.
Mary dressed in her usual black or dark brown shapeless dress and cinched it together with a plastic belt effectively hiding any allure she might have had. But, she left her hair down.
A few days later, she met him again. Her confidence grew in exponential increments with every encounter. She was still to talk about herself and still did not know his name.
"Mary..." He had a way of saying her name that made it sound like the most beautiful word in the language. "Mary, I have sat here and told you all about me and not once have I asked you anything about you. Are you married? Where do you live? Do you have brothers, sisters anything or anything and everything?"
"You might have told me so much about you, but you never have told me your name."
"Oh Bejayzus!" He threw his hands up and almost fell over backwards off the stools they were sitting on. Mary smiled at his actions and blushed at his profanity of the Lord's name.
"So I haven't. It's Michael, Michael Donnelly and very pleased it is to be meeting witch yeah." He lapsed into an Irish drogue that sounded peculiar from an Irishman and had Mary laughing fit to bust before she realised the spectacle she was making of herself and quickly brought herself under control.
"Ah Mary, Mary, that is a grand smile you be having there, 'tis a shame to be hiding it." His eyes danced in merriment and Mary felt her heart lurch.
Somehow, they sat there for an hour while she told him of her life to this point. He listened and made no comments while she spoke, just the occasional shake of his head, as if in disbelief. Mary talked and talked until she realised the time.
"Oh Mercy!" She wailed through her fingers as they covered her mouth in shock. Eileen will be after killing me or ringing the hospitals. I have to go home. She jumped up, spilling an empty coffee cup as her thigh caught the edge of the table. She grabbed her bags and was on the point of flight.
"I'll drive you." He said it simply, but in a voice that was not about to take no for an answer.
"I...I Couldn't." She protested weakly, but it was already settled as he relieved her of her bags and guided her to the exit and his car waiting in the parking zone.
She directed him and observed the casual ease with which he negotiated the evening traffic. She also took the opportunity to appraise his form, features and body.
She guessed him to be a few years older than her. His years at sea had ingrained lines into his face, but wasn't detrimental to the whole aspect. His black hair was swept back off his forehead was in need of cutting and flicked up at the nape of his neck.
His open necked sport shirt showed his torso to be quite well built, certainly not 'He Man', but well proportioned and powerful. His slacks gave nothing away, but were neatly pressed and clean. Mary liked his teeth. They had a pure whiteness to them and uniformity rarely seen. She also liked his mouth. The expressive quirks and full lips did things to her imagination.
Mary noticed her curtains twitch as she and Michael ascended the stone stairs to her front door. He carried the bags and then left her with a cheery wave and a private smile that passed between them.
Eileen fairly gushed as her mother shut the door in an obvious reflective state of mind. Demanding to know who the Hunk, as she put it, was and where did she know him from. Mary fended off the inquisition and prepared dinner in a distracted vortex of mangled thought.
She found herself preening, something she had never done before, but there she was, in front of the mirror, preening and primping her hair.
They continued to meet at the coffee shop. Daily, easily chatting and talking, getting to know each other until, one particular, memorable Friday. This Friday was different because Michael asked her out.
"Perhaps we could go to the pictures, dancing or how about a meal?" He asked; Mary accepted with out hesitation, but then, immediately after her acceptance, the doubts crowded in.
What would she wear? How did you go on a date? She began to panic again and left hurriedly to the safe domain of the flat. Eileen proved to be invaluable, calming and then knowledgeable. Secretly, she was thrilled for her mother and pulled out all the stops. Although Mary couldn't really afford it, they went clothes shopping, a first of many firsts to come. Mary ceded to Eileen's dress sense and at the end of the wearying excursion, had to admit that her purchases looked fantastic on her.
Just before the appointed time of Michael picking her up, Mary cast an appreciative glance and a twirl over her ensemble. She would never in her life, have picked out pastel colours, but had to agree that the subtle shades and fineness of the materials accentuated her figure and highlighted her hair. Another first was the introduction of makeup. Mary had never once worn anything on her face apart from a bruise. Eileen once again, worked a magic that even Mary had to admit, looked absolutely perfect.
Michael arrived punctually and waited in the living room while Mary touched up and preened with Eileen in attendance. Then, together they entered the living room and faced Him, One young girl presenting her prodigy for inspection, the other a middle-aged woman who was feeling very young and more nervous than she had ever been in her life. This was it, a first step on a path that she could have no idea of its destination.
Michael smiled that winning smile that lit his eyes as he turned from the mantelpiece.
"OH! I must be in the wrong house, I thought Mary lived here, but I must be wrong." His teasing pleased Eileen and produced a playful punch from her to his arm.
"Mary, you look stunning." The simplicity of his comment and the sincerity with which it was delivered went straight to her heart. If she wasn't in love before, with this man, then she was now and she liked the feeling. "Shall we go?" He offered his arm and they left to go to the movies.
Mary couldn't remember the film, the actors or the plot, so wrapped in the attentions of Michael was she, that any peripheral stimulation was ignored. The film finished and they filed out into the cool night air. It must have rained, but she didn't notice. They had a drink in a local bar and then decided to go home to Mary's flat for a coffee.