People said that revenge was a dish best served cold. Although the one who first used that turn of phrase probably never came across those who possessed the chilled touch of the grave.
Either way, Clara was not sold on the idea, considering how the memory of a corpse bursting into flame at first light was so near and dear to her heart. It was on a cold winter's dawn just before the sun's life-giving light returned to the world. It was the warmth from those flames that permitted her to keep going until the sun claimed its dominion.
Revenge for whom or what? Clara wondered why she considered her vocation a form of revenge. Her father died working the coal mines while her mother followed suit years later; there was no desire to avenge their deaths.
The hunter was also not sure which of their deaths had been the most traumatic. Was it watching one's father growing weaker until he could barely get up from bed? She remembered how he would cough up black blood. They eventually found him in the outhouse stiff and blue. Somehow he managed to make it there during the night but never returned.
Or was it her mother's death which had been more traumatic? A slower and more gradual death, which brought about skin lesions, rashes and the eventual collapse of the mind. Even though she had gone blind near the end and appeared leprous, Clara remembered how men would still come around looking for her services. She had silently hoped that whatever her mother died of turned out to be catching.
After her death, Clara and her three sisters were sent off to different orphanages. That had been her first time on a train and the last time she ever saw them again.
She ended up at some orphanage run by sisters from a local convent. That marked her first exposure to both schooling and religion. Clara embraced her new way of life and quickly learned how to avoid their wrath. She was quick to notice that judgement was only rendered to those who were unlucky enough to get caught.
Upon entering her second year at the orphanage, Clara took notice on how often Father Michael was called away. The man would disappear for days or even weeks at a time without raising suspicion. For a mischievous little girl, the concept of being able to avoid her responsibilities along with any consequences had some allure.
Motivated to discover his secrets, Clara shadowed the man. This proved to be easy enough since he probably never considered that someone would do so. After all, this was a foreign concept for those who lived under the watchful eye of their God and had given their vow of poverty.
In anticipation of his destination, she went ahead and hid in his quarters. Instantly she was reminded of how many of the devout were notorious for remaining covered at all times. Clara once caught a sister flaying herself as she bathed; all in an effort to keep impure thoughts from her mind. She later learned that was the reason they adopted the habit. They did it to keep their body and hair concealed even from members of their own order.
Clara got no more than a glimpse of his scar-riddled back. These were not marks left by a whip, paddle or another form of corporeal punishment. There was an animalistic quality to the scarring, but what kind of animal could have inflicted those?
While sisters of the order tended to assume they were alone with God; this priest surprised her. So much so that it blew her earlier theory out of the water.
"It is not wise to enter the house of God with impure thoughts," he said calmly using the same voice he reserved for his sleep-inducing sermons.
Clara did not say a word and even held her breath in an effort to remain undetected. He never turned to look at her before speaking nor were there any mirrors. Hence her presence should have remained a mystery.
YOU ARE READING
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