Chapter 5 (Part 2)

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The path was a long one but eventually Ryan found himself standing before the familiar set of doors he had visited earlier. The building before him was towering, the red brick speaking of age as the two front turrets rose up high into the sky to kiss its greyish ceiling. It was not going to rain, but the clouds filled the sky all the same. That was the highland climate and as the strong wind continued to how across the street, Ryan debated with the decision to either walk up the front steps or retire back into the confines of his rather warm and quite homy hotel room. Another blast of air and his decision was made for him. The wind today was a nightmare and as much as he tried to pull his slick jacket around him it failed terribly at keeping him warm having been designed for the much more warm, more accommodating climate of the capital.

One step, two steps and soon his impatience led him to take the stairs two at a time. Part of him was escaping the harsh weather while the rest, it just wanted to do this before he chickened out and changed his mind. As he came to the great doors, his hand lifted but lingered, poised to knock but not sure if that was the right thing to do here. In the end his fist unfurled, his fingers stretched out and sprayed out on the heavy wood as he pushed one m door inwards. To his relieve the great doors cracked opened to reveal the warm interior decked in scarlet tapestries and pews made from dark mahogany wood.

He had been here before, yet he had never taken the time to appreciate it, the beauty of this towering monolith erected within the central district of this highland city. He took another step forward drawn in by stained glass windows behind the gilded altar, the sound of his feet muffled slightly by the scarlet carpet spread out all the way to the front pews only that, he didn't quite get that far as a familiar voice called out to him.

"Mrs B?" he didn't quite mean it as a question but her sudden appearance flanked by two teenage girls quite surprised him. "I... I..." he tried to explain himself and his presence there but the matronly lady just smiled back.

"That's okay Ryan. All are welcome."

The lady was so warm, so accommodating that Ryan found himself smiling too.

"Thanks. I don't know why I came here," he said turning around to slowly walk towards them. "I guess I just..." he trailed off as words failed him, finding that, he lacked a proper way to correctly express his emotions.

"It's okay Ryan. Like I Said, all are welcome."

"Right." he laughed lightly as fingers found their way behind his ears to ruffle his blond mop. "But the thing is, I was actually looking for you." he ended up saying awkwardly.

"Oh, is that so?" She asked gently before nodding at the two girls who were flanking her. They both nodded at her and smiled at Ryan before leaving the two of them alone to talk. "So... What's on your mind today Ryan?" she said as she led him to an empty office.

"I am sorry for taking your time. You must have had something lined up for now?" his said his eyes looking into the direction the girl's had just left in.

"Yea, but it is still early. Being a Wednesday I normally have these violin sessions but today, for some reason, they called to cancel." she said with a far and worried expression marring her face before turning back to Ryan with another smile. "but that also means that I have time before the study group officially starts."

"That's where you were headed?"

"Yes, we meet in the community hall next to the main sanctuary. Most of them are already present. They're just having some fun before the meeting officially starts. That's also where Janice and Bernice went to. So?" she said as she took a seat behind the desk. The room was small and the furniture old but clean nonetheless. Apart from the furniture and an old rug on the floor, the room looked mostly unoccupied and more like a janitor's closet lacking a window and all. Even so, the air was not musty thanks to the ventilation vent he could spot on the wall. " What did you have in mind? What did you want us to talk about?"

Ryan drew in a deep breath looking anywhere but into the eyes of the concerned looking Mrs Beufont.

"Where do I start?" he paused as he collected his thoughts and wits about him. "My life, my dreams, everything is in shambles. I do not know what to do." he told her. Mrs Beufont did not say anything however as she allowed him to continue to pour out his heart undeterred. "Growing up, I had all these plans, these dreams, but little did I know what life would dish out. Right now I feel so mad at my parents, for what they did to me, for what they allowed to happen and  I always wonder how different things would have been had they not interfered. "

" What did they do?" Mrs Beufont questioned in a concerned whisper.

" I mean, I understand that it worked out okay for Lennita, that's my sister" he clarified "but really, an arranged marriage in this day and time! "his expression was now livid.

"I understand how that can be destructive..." Mrs Beufont shook her head in agreement. "Most people like to feel like they have a form of control or say in what happens in their lives."

"Exactly." Ryan agreed with her. "and what's worse is that they kept it a secret until at that point that I found a person that I truly cared about. They had to wait until I was head over heels with her to break the news to me. And what option did I get? None! It would have been better if they had threatened to disown me. Instead, they threatened her... "he choked off as a thin film of moisture began to crowd his eyes. " but how could I tell her... " he went on and Mrs Beufont could not find the heart to break up his narrative in order to seek for clarification. That would come later, she told herself even though she was quite hard pressed with curiosity to find out what his parents had threatened him with, that had broken this young man so. "... So I committed a crime of my own, I thought, I felt that maybe it would change something, do something? but it ruined everything. It ruined her and she could no longer face me. Sometimes I think I did it to make her hate me, to push her away, other times I think I wanted a good enough reason to stay away from her. I just don't know!" he said in exasperation. "I just know that I never wanted to hurt her. "

"What did you do Ryan?“ Mrs Beufont asked when he finally trailed off. The young clearly looked troubled and for his  own sake the woman hoped that it was not something that would cost him his freedom.

"I can't even speak of it." he said his lips turning up as they curled up with disgust at his own thoughts.

"Can you tell me if she's okay then?" she asked holding her breath not able to anticipate what she would be hearing next.

"I like to think that she's fine. The last time I saw her she seemed happy and my son now has a strong stable figure that he can call father." he replied with a lost expression in his eyes.

"Oh, Ryan!" the woman's heart went out to him and for the first time, Ryan looked up surprised that a total stranger could care so much about his hurt and the pain  he had gone through.

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