A Day of Rest.
Cardinal Fratelli met Gianni within the dimly-lit cathedral. Morning light soon flooded in, causing marble floors and tiles to glow. The boy wore pristine white robes and squirmed nervously at his place before the high-altar.
“You will kneel just like that to receive the host upon your tongue,” Fratelli told him.
In jest, Gianni stuck out his tongue and made an odd noise. The cardinal was not amused. He continued instructing:
“When you receive your Lord and Savior, always do well to thank him with a multitude of prayers. Keep your mind on the most holy sacrament- on his gifts…”
Leaning on the altar-rail, Gianni then asked, “What if it tastes bad?”
“It won’t taste bad.”
“How do you know?”
Feeling scolded, Gianni stood and slinked into a front pew where he crossed his arms, huffing. In some strange way, this reminded Fratelli very much of himself and he glanced aside at an ornate stained-glass window, slightly grinning. Wordlessly, he retreated down the aisle with Gianni distantly trailing after. When Fratelli prayerfully folded his hands together, the boy did so also- though more playful than prayerful.
Entering the dining-room, Fratelli ate breakfast with Father Rodrigo, his secretary who pleasantly informed him about the events of this week. Holy Week as it was called, an entire week of recalling and celebrating the Lord’s last days leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. Fratelli’s mind began to race and he hushed Rodrigo.
“I wish for today to be a day of rest,” Fratelli stated.
“That is fine, Your Eminence.”
“Then, let’s stop talking.”
Rodrigo pursed his lips and glanced out the window. Trees rustled audibly against the glass. Leaves swirled in wind. The entire earth was shedding its brown winter coat and donning the green splendor of spring.
Taking the daily newspaper off a table in the hallway, Fratelli trekked upstairs. He drew back his bedroom curtains, letting golden sun pour in and scrambled through a top dresser-drawer. At last, his hands seized upon a small tin: his secret stash of Turkish delight!
Fratelli sat in his comfortable chair, opened the tin, took one of the delicate, powdered candies and ate it. He smiled from the sweetness. Resting his feet on a plump pillow, he unfolded the paper then slowly began to read. This is so enjoyable, he mused…
Suddenly, there was loud buzzing and a furious tickle as a fly dove right into his ear. Fratelli sat up rigidly. He slapped his ear. The fly flew out unharmed and circled above him. Watching it dance overhead, Fratelli folded the newspaper then swung! He missed.
Very annoyed at being so blatantly disturbed, Fratelli didn’t give up. He followed that tiny fly around the room, swatting again and again. Finally, it landed on a statuette. Fratelli focused…he struck really hard. The statue came crashing down but not the fly.
“Lord, I know you have use for your creatures…and declared them all good- yet this one is despicable!” he hissed.
The door opened and Dina came in. She eyed the broken ceramic statue then the cardinal poised, warrior-like, with newspaper in hand.
“Your Eminence! What is the matter with you?” she cried.
“It’s a fly…” he answered, pointing to the dresser where a little black dot scurried.
Dina approached, swiftly yanking the newspaper from his hand. Her expression displayed an inner temptation to whack him with it…but she only stuffed the paper in her dress-pocket and went to open the window. Patiently, she shooed the fly outside. Then she recovered a small broom and dust-pan that were leaning against the wall and swept the broken, glass pieces.
She said, her voice flat:
“Now, continue resting, Your Eminence…”
“Thank you Dina,” he replied.
“It was nothing at all…you men and your silly compulsion to hit things!”
Fratelli sheepishly watched her go. He spent the afternoon’s remainder straitening up his room. Once everything was tidied, he went outside on the veranda to nap.
Meanwhile inside, Dina was setting the table for dinner when she heard a knock at the door. Answering, she found Francine standing there, several bags under her arms, and Iona’s slim figure waiting behind her.
“Oh, come in,” Dina exclaimed, “His Eminence is sleeping. I will wake him and tell him you both are here.”
“No Dina, allow me,” Francine replied.
Wearing a mischievous smile, Francine quietly stepped on the veranda. Sunlight made her auburn hair flash a bright reddish color. She plucked a leaf from the nearby palm and touched it to Fratelli’s ear. Immediately, the cardinal snapped awake, smacking his ear and yelling. Francine suppressed her laughter and plainly said,
“That is what happens when you are slothful.”
Fratelli’s amber eyes glared hotly. He removed his red cap and angrily squeezed it in one hand.
“Good evening, Francine,” he growled.