1 The Book of Hosea
The tea, untouched, had already cooled down when Sancia, listening to the hard, angry pitter-patter of the rain from her window and losing track of time as she gently rocked back-and-forth in her seat, turned her gaze to the door across the room, and the knocking, incessant and hard, had evaporated any dreams she had while she were in a blank state. She grimaced at how dull of a woman she was for recalling what had occurred earlier that day: the handsome Padre Julio, whom she'd met down the river Pasig, wore the clothes before he took his vow of celibacy, and in broken, desperate sobs, knelt before her, kissed her worn hands and asked her to marry him.
It was a proposal one should think as blasphemous and inconceivable, but Sancia, to her horror and confusion, as she stared into the Padre's warm gray eyes and noticed how fine of an aquiline nose and cupid's bow of a mouth he had, almost, in a moment of weakness against the man's Adonis-like features, said yes. Had it not been for the merry laughter of five friends riding a boat down the river, Sancia, and Julio, too, would have tarnished God's trust.
The knocking came harder than the pouring rain, which came in thunderous torrents. Sancia crossed the room, unlatched the door, and opened it slightly. Her heart came to her throat, and Padre Julio forced his way into her room. He was wet and smelled of the wine he used in church. She noticed he was still in his worldly clothes, and he was still swaggering in that worldly manner--a man, not possessed by the Holy Ghost, but of unholy, libertine thoughts and actions.
She pulled her shawl tighter around her and clutched the rosary beads close to her hip. "T-this is the nunnery, p-padre! H-how did you get in here?"
The padre softly chuckled and seated himself on the rocking chair Sancia had just occupied. His wet clothes and muddy boots made a mucky puddle around the chair, and Sancia lamented how much cleaning she'd have to do once the padre leaves.
"You're still wearing your habit," Padre Julio slurred and stared at her with those love-drunk eyes he used against her earlier that day.
"I-I was praying and didn't realize the hour for bed had already come," she said softly and turned her eyes away from his beautiful face.
"Tea and four lit candles--at least someone came here to attend to you," the padre commented.
"It was Sister Condeza; she's always been so very attentive." She could feel him around her, though he was just sitting on her chair, staring at her with his darkling eyes. She knew well her heart would burst, and when he stood staggering, walked towards her, and put his hands on her shoulders, Sancia wept and shook his hands off her. "We can't!"
But Padre Julio, insane with love and passion for this slight female, who had only arrived in his parish not more than six months, could no longer deny himself of Sancia. He cupped her chin, held it like the goblets of wine he used during mass, and swiped the tears running down her cheeks with the pad of his thumbs. "My sweet, I shan't do anything against you. You are trembling!" He wrapped one arm around her shoulder and led her to a dry seat.
"Oh padre," Sancia sighed. "This cannot continue. H-had I known what you felt--had I known anything earlier! I-I would h-have--"
"No," he said, "do not wish for the impossible. I've thought of it, and whether you knew earlier or later would have changed nothing. I'd still have fallen for you. I've already written a letter to the Pope regarding my vows."
"But the facts will not change, padre! You have a parish and people look up to you, while I-I'm--"
"A tarnished woman? A lady of low morals?"
Sancia sobbed on her sleeve and shook her head. "Padre, how can you love me? You know what I did. I killed my own child with the help of that wretched woman and buried whatever remained of it at the back of your parish."
"Of course I knew what you did! I saw you bury it, Sancia. I saw the bloody bundle and the tiny hole you dug on that evening. That's why I asked the Sisters to keep you and take care of you. I want you to be absolved of your sins and guilt!"
"But what you ask of me, a prostitute, to be your wife, would stretch the Lord's mercy, padre! And the people, they need you, more than I." She possessed one of Julio's hands and kissed his palm. She trembled more so as one of his fingers traced the skin on her bare nape, and she cried in his hand, and said in a hoarse whisper, "Julio--please forgive me, Lord, but I love this man."
He knelt and pressed his forehead against hers, and his lips, quivering and warm, touched the side of her face, and the mere, slight contact expressed the love he felt for her, for the frustration over the wall, he realized, he could not climb. He loved her, deeply and purely loved her, but what fruits would this love bear?
"Just for a moment, before we part and I go back walking in this rain, let me experience the joys of a man in the arms of the woman he loves," he whispered in her ear.
Sancia tearfully wrapped her arms around his neck, and they climbed the bed pulling each other close. The embrace lasted perhaps less than a moment, but the feel of each others bodies, fitting every crook and curve of their figures, solidified the fact the padre knew all along: they were meant to be together.
With all his strength, the padre moved away from his Sancia's hold and felt the coldness of the rain tight around his neck like a noose.
Sancia turned her gaze away from him as Padre Julio got out of bed, straightened his wet clothes, and walked out of the door. Tired, she shut her eyes and slept as the rain kept pouring. Padre Julio, as he staggered in the rain, crumpled the letter he was supposed to send to the Pope in his pocket. He loved Sancia, ruthlessly and with such deep passions, but he loved the Lord more.
Once in his own rooms, Padre Julio grabbed for his bible, flipped the pages, and stopped right at the story of Hosea, whom God commanded to marry a prostitute.