Sin-Eater Ch. 01byvelvetpie©
I can remember the first time I heard of a 'sin-eater'. I was thirteen and one of my friends, Charlie Williams, told me that he was the heir of a sin-eater.
"What the hell is a sin-eater?" I'd asked and Charlie grew quiet, glancing through the tiny hole we cut in the refrigerator box that we were sharing as a fort and a breeze swept through the branches of maples outside, making the branches click together and instantly raising my hackles.
"A sin-eater is one who consumes the sins of someone who is about to die."
"What?" I didn't believe him. God took care of everyone's sins, didn't he? At least that was what it said in the Bible. "How? There's no way!"
"My father eats the sins."
"Charlie, you're full of shit and I don't believe you. There's no such thing as a sin-eater."
* * * * *
Why I was remembering that conversation with Charlie, I had no idea. Years had come and gone between those words and the memories blew away like ashes in the wind. Meanwhile, our friendship had morphed from easy adolescence to complicated adults. Together, we waded through the murky waters of middle school, then chose separate roads in high school, acknowledging each other in the hallway while pursuing our divergent destinies.
As we matured, our similarities seemed to disappear, even though we still offered support to each other. He found his passion in debate and led our school's debate team to numerous victories. He laughed, saying that I was his good luck charm and he always made it a point to find me at my regular place, in the front row, making eye contact with me before he began his oration. I never missed a match.
I gravitated toward sports. It started out with soccer, then moved quickly to lacrosse and swimming. At 6'2" and being lean at 180 pounds, I found that I could cut through the water with an ease that others didn't have. I split the water like the prow of a graceful ship and propelled us to several championships. Charlie proved to be my good luck charm and always came to visit me in the locker room before our meet, helping me through the nervous moments before I took to the water.
I'm not sure when it happened but I fell in love with Charlie and looking back, I can't say that there was any one thing that ensnared my heart. He was an impossible combination of confidence and awkwardness but I loved the fact that we could always ourselves around each other. I looked forward to our daily lunches, ignoring the odd looks from my elitist friends and his learned acquaintances, shrugging off pointed comments while basking in the glow of an old and treasured friendship.
Something changed during our graduation year.
Our birthdays were in October, mine landing on October 29th and his on October 31st, All Hallows Eve. We'd always held birthday parties together and had enjoyed great times together. Now, as we approached our 18th birthdays, his countenance grew progressively darker and he pulled away from me, spending less time with his old childhood friend. I shrugged it off, chalking it up to a late spurt of hormones but something kept gnawing at me.
Especially when he announced,
"I can't have a birthday party with you this year."
I just stared at him. After nearly fifteen years of having joint parties, I wasn't prepared for those words. With the event only weeks away, I was already knee deep into plans for us. "What?"
I watched him sit on the bottom stairs of the platform diving board, his dark eyes searching the rippling turquoise waters. "I'm sorry, Tom. Dad's rules."
"Dad's rules? Since when did your Dad make any decisions for you?" Charlie's parents had divorced six years earlier and Charlie never spoken about it. I'd never pressed him, figuring that he would tell me when he was ready. "I thought you hated him."
"I do." Charlie stood and for the first time, I really took a good look at the person I'd called my best friend for most of my life. He was nearly as tall as I was but his body was thicker. Despite my love of sports, I'd been unable to get any bigger than I was but Charlie's father, who had been a wrestler, had passed his genes on to my friend. Charlie was about 5'11" but had a thick body that a lot of my sports peers envied. He worked out every day with the same religious fervor he worked his mind but I'd yet to see him score a girl.
"Then what the hell? That's our night, Charlie. That's always been our night!"
"I know." He didn't look up at me but he didn't have to. It was obvious that he was as upset as I was. "I can't explain, Tom. I have to do what he says."
"That's bullshit!" I screamed at him, flinging my swim cap into the water. It see-sawed back and forth, releasing bubbles until it reached the bottom of the pool. "You've never ever listened to him before. Why now?" For the first time since he'd told me that he was the heir of a sin-eater, he was completely speechless. He started to speak, then shrugged, shaking his head and gazing at the pool. "Come on, Charlie. Talk to me."
He stood, looked up at me with his eyes filled with tears and just as quickly looked away. "I gotta go."
"Charlie!" I watched him go, feeling that something more than the idea of our joint party had ended. Somehow I knew that it was the end of our friendship.