by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
After a couple of phone calls Judy disappeared returning some fifteen minutes later with an elderly man who by the way he was dressed was also a clergyman.
Judy made the introductions.
"Boys? Allow me to introduce His Grace the long-since retired Catholic Bishop of Oxford William O'Brian. Bill? This is Andy Pope and his friend Lucas Carmichael."
"It's a great honour to meet you sir."
"Nonsense. The pleasure is all mine. I know who you are you see. I watch television and I remember you from the Olympic Games. You're the young divers aren't you?"
"Yes sir, we are. It's nice you remembered us."
"I might be an old man but I'm not senile yet although that might change if this dear lady insists on dragging me out of my home just on the verge of noggin time!"
"Oh God! I'm sorry Bill. Let me get you a drink."
While she was out of the room, Father O'Brian explained a few things to us.
"I'll be one hundred and one come my next Birthday and Judy has been a very loyal friend to me ever since we met. We spend many happy hours talking…….."
"Arguing more like!"
Judy handed Father O'Brian a very healthy measure of Jameson's Whiskey and then he continued.
"Very well, arguing! Have it your own way woman! It is a very interesting combination you see. An old man brought up in the Catholic Church versus a young Protestant priest and not only that, a lady priest. Yes it's fair to say our discussions are, um, interesting! Anyhow, you didn't drag me out just to introduce you to these lads did you?"
"No Bill, you're right. We wanted to pick your brain over something but before we go into detail, could you be a poppet and translate something for us?"
"If I'm able then certainly."
I downloaded the photos of the writing onto Judy's desktop and Father O'Brian studied them for a moment before turning to me.
"Find a pen and paper lad then write this down.
What this means is very straight forward and loosely translated reads thus.
'Go now. There is no need to return here for we are with God the Father but fear not for we shall meet again in the life that is yet to come'
Would you like to tell me about this?"
Between the three of us, we took him through everything from start to finish. Father O'Brian looked thoughtful then said
"Take me up to the church Judy. If you don't mind, I'd like to pray there. You boys? Come with me please. I think it right that you're there as well."
"They have a train to catch Bill and it's a Sunday."
"Don't worry about us getting home. I'll book us in up at the hotel. Father O'Brian wants us up at the church so we'll be there."
Too infirm to kneel, Father O'Brian sat in front of the altar, crossed himself and prayed.
"Deus Abbas, Deus filius quod Deus flamen. Beatus is vestry domus quod totus quisnam cultus hic. Fulsi a lux lucis unto orbis terrarium quod beatus totus quisnam es patientia inquitas, tribuo spes ut inops quod penuriosus quod tribuo virtus illis quisnam servo vos.
In nomen of vestri filus Jesus Christ. Senior audite nostrum votum amen."
No we didn't get it either!
<God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Bless this your house and all who worship here. Shine a light unto the world and bless all who are suffering injustice, give hope to the needy and poor and give courage to those who serve you.
In the name of your son Jesus Christ. Lord hear our prayer. Amen.>
So my Latin is rusty. Sue me.
Okay so it's non-existent. Double sue me.
Father O'Brian sat there seemingly absorbing the atmosphere then with the brightest smile turned towards us.
"I love this church. There's something very spiritual here, something not found in many places of worship and I think this is because it's a crossing point between two separate yet parallel religions. How much do you know about the English Reformation boys?"
"Not that much really. We're neither of us studying history."
"The reformation period began with Henry VIII who was hell bent on setting up what we now call the Church of England in 1530. Much of this was because he was unable to convince the Pope to allow him to divorce so he set about destroying the Catholic Church, its monasteries, abbeys and churches in order that he might install a new thinking, that of a Protestant ethos.
As history has taught us, this battle between Catholicism and Protestants has been waged even up until recently, I'm talking here about the Irish question which, please God is all but over.
My point is this. Most of the original churches were completely raised to the ground but somehow this church of Saint Michael survived almost unscathed hence the crossing point I mentioned earlier.
As you already know, major parts of this building date back to the eleventh century but then repaired, extended by both Catholics and Protestants, both sides of the argument recognising this place as a place of worship but otherwise it was a terrible time to be alive. These days of course anyone is welcome to worship in either a Catholic or Protestant church in fact we both welcome that exchange, it brings us closer to God afterall.
Take the terrorist attacks of the last few years as an example. It is wonderful to see all religions, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and so forth all in prayer under the same roof, something unheard of until recent times but I digress somewhat.
The two boys of which you speak were no doubt raised as Catholics but here they are buried in a Protestant graveyard but is it though? I'd like to look upon it as a shared place of rest for all faiths as all religions worship God, we just see him differently. It is the message that's important. Peace, love and tolerance."
The church fell silent. His profound words had even got me thinking. Don't run away with the idea that I was ever likely to be a born-again Christian but Father O'Brian had touched something inside me and it hit home with a vengeance. Those three words……..Peace, love and tolerance. What a maxim to live to!
Lucas was clearly moved and left the pew where we were sitting and knelt down beside Father O'Brian.
"In that case, would you mind saying a few words over their grave for us?"
"Yes of course just so long as Judy has no objections? We've already been told very clearly that they're in heaven but if it helps you understand then there's no harm done. Judy?"
"No of course it's alright Bill. Actually it squares the circle. The boys can help you outside."
Father O'Brian refused the offer of our support and slowly made his way to the grave, paused then looked up at the sky.
"A fine resting place for these two unfortunate lads but now that not only have they been reunited with God, they've also been reunited with you two, let us pray."
Even I bowed my head! This wonderful old man had got to me big time!
"Senior sublime. Vultus benigne in illa thy vernula who's ago errant captus truculenter pro suum vicis quod tribuo lemma pacis in a vita eternus, titus in thy venia quod forever alo in macies eyes. Tribuo unto illa thy vernula Andrew quod Lucas a vita of guadium quod contentment quod may suum diligo linus proceterus exsisto an inspiration pro totus qui insisto in suum footsteps. In nonem nostri saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!"
He stood up and gazed at the stars.
"Oh dear. I'm getting old! Sorry but my use of Latin is aging with me so I had to use some English words here and there but God heard us and of that you can be sure.
Get me home Judy. I'm tired and I need to rest."
Judy offered to take us to the hotel but first she needed to take Father O'Brian back to his retirement home which was fine by us as we still had questions we'd like to put to him. He didn't disappoint.
"My best guess, and it is only a guess remember, is that they've been waiting for you. I don't believe in this claptrap that you have to receive a Christian burial before you can be accepted into heaven. In the Bible Jesus spoke of 'In my house are many rooms' and by that he wasn't referring to rooms per se but able to accommodate good people from all religious beliefs. I don't doubt that these two boys stepped over the boundaries of what was considered to be acceptable behaviour at the time but that doesn't in anyway justify them being murdered. I'm not going to tell you that I believe homosexuality is right, I'm far too old to accept that but that isn't to say that I now realise that we don't have any control over who we fall in love with, that is a decision made by God. In my day, of course it happened but it was kept very low key, sadly these days the Catholic Church also have many questions that must be answered especially in their treatment of children, these boys could have entered heaven at any time but my belief is that they chose to wait but why? A messenger from God? It's a possibility because if they chose not to wait, they would have entered a state of grace and would therefore be unable to contact you……..no they had to wait for you. I must email Pope Francis, he's a good man."
"Yes of course Lucas. Much cheaper than a telephone call my boy?"
"You know the Pope well enough to call him then?"
"Oh yes. I first met him when he was a very junior priest in Argentina and on and off we've been in contact ever since. You'd like him and your next question is can I use email and the answer is definitely yes! I wouldn't be without it."
"Oh wow……..I just thought that…….."
"Yes I'm old but this woman whose driving keeps me young bless her. She bought me my first ever laptop computer and then proceeded to spend hours bullying me to lean how it worked. I have to say, it paid off!"
Judy turned to him.
"Bullied you? Oh come on Bill? You loved every moment so don't feed these boys bullshit! You lapped it up even more than you do Irish whiskey!"
"So true Judy, so true my dear."
Eventually we made it to the hotel in time to catch the restaurant and having eaten a really good meal, we asked for a bottle of wine to be taken up to our room which we proceeded to drink as we talked over the day's events.
"I did remember to phone Liam earlier and cancel training for tonight and tomorrow morning as I guessed you'd probably forgotten what with everything that went down."
"Oh God! You're right. It completely slipped my mind! Thanks for that Lucas, it would've been way to embarrassing had he shown up for nothing. Remind me to kiss you!"
"Oh so you need a reminder now do you? Love is fickle."
"Well it has been a weird day on way and another! I'll kiss you all over later just to make up for it."
"I can work with that! Changing the subject much though I'd rather not, did you think to identify which was the sprig of mistletoe was yours?"
"Yep. I used my thumb nail to strip away part of the bark. Did you do anything?"
"Uh-huh. I used a Sharpie and drew a black ring around mine. Why did we both think that was important? Very odd."
"Cos we're convinced there's like something written on the parchment. There has to be otherwise what was the point in going to all that trouble."
"True. But what I don't get is who or what tied the roots like that?"
"Search me. With all this strange shit going on, nothing makes much sense anymore. At least Father O'Brian didn't seem totally at odds with stuff. I mean even after we told him everything he didn't seem overly put out but why is he thinking about telling the Pope?"
"I reckon I know that one. The Protestant Church don't do all this modern day miracle shit do they? On the other hand the Catholic Church is much more open to accepting that these things happen. We've heard sweet fuck-all from the Bishop of Oxford like it's too hot to handle or summat, Judy bloody nearly wet herself almost like she was terrified whereas Father O'Brian like totally accepted everything as if it was an everyday occurrence so as he said, he's an old man who is out of touch with modern thinking so he's referring it on, in this instance to Pope Francis who is by all accounts, a very forward-thinking man."
"I get what you say but……..Judy told us that story about the swans saving that toddler and she said that she'd like to believe it was the hand of God at work so why not this?"
"Yeah well, there's one thing her believing it but if her take on it flies in the face of the higher church authorities then she's maybe reluctant to push her point. Look at it another way for a moment. Ever since the committal, she hasn't exactly welcomed us with open arms has she? Sure, she's been nice and polite and stuff so I wonder if involving the Catholic Church is her way of abdicating responsibility so as not to go ruffling the feathers of her bosses."
"Now that makes a lot of sense and especially as St. Michaels was originally a Catholic place of worship and during the time when our boys were alive! Nice thinking boyfriend!"
"Yeah well, I'm not just awesome looking? I do have a brain even if I care not to exercise it that much."
"Crap! Pass me that wine before you drink it all!"
(I did kiss him all over by the way and I do mean everywhere! )
For a time things settled back into a normal routine. Training went well especially as the other guys were there. Lucas had more than his fair share of homework and assignments whereas I got off pretty lightly which gave me the opportunity to get the garden straight.
It was really starting to take shape with all the shrubs and trees we'd planted starting to mature. The rose garden was stunning and the flower borders no less impressive.
We had regularly barbequed with all our friends which lead to impromptu games of tennis, croquet and cricket on the lawns. Summer was good and instead of flying by, it took a gentle pace almost as if it was refusing to give way to autumn but then came the first of a series of bomb-shells that would rock our world.
Lucas and I were sitting out enjoying the sun with Lucas finishing off an assignment and me just admiring the way I had finally managed to work out how to mow the grass and keep all the stripes in line with each other.
"Hey Andy? We've got an email from Father O'Brian. Wanna come here and read it with me?"
I wandered over and looked over his shoulder as he opened it up. It read
'Dear Lucas and Andy. Many apologies for all these delays but I have news. Judy thought it best under the circumstances that I took charge of this little investigation and I'm pleased she did as not only has it given me something to occupy my mind other than aging, it now appears we are making progress.
I sent your sprigs of mistletoe off for inspection at the Natural History Museum in London but with strict instructions not to go tampering with the binding. The first results showed that the binding of which I speak was so intricate that they didn't have the heart even to try and persuade me otherwise. What we saw on the outside was the thicker end of the root stock but it got thinner with every successive layer to the point where the first turn around the parchments, the root stock was about the diameter of a human hair. How such wonderful work was achieved is unfortunately still a mystery with no one coming forward with a credible explanation.
Now to the parchments themselves. It is estimated that if unrolled they would have been somewhere close to four inches long, double-folded making the width twice that of what was rolled around the sprigs.
The parchments themselves had been torn from a larger one and this is clearly seen under an ordinary microscope. They then set about the task of trying to identify any markings on them, writing or whatever and this is where it becomes very interesting if not amazing!
You were absolutely right in your assumption that writing would be found but identifying exactly what it was or what it meant was very difficult hence the delay but now, finally we have answers. I hope you are sitting down because what I am about to tell you is nothing sort of extraordinary.
It took many hours of scanning under machines the names of which I cannot even pronounce but the upshot is this. We have a series of dates and two names.
Please make sure you're sitting down otherwise like as not you'll fall down.'
'First to the dates which when translated read on the one, Born December 13 th 1072 disappeared October 14 th 1086. On the next parchment they found Born October 14 th 1072 disappeared October 14 th 1086.
Now on that first piece of parchment was a name, Andrew Papal and on the second, Luke Michael.
Now I think we can be very sure that the inscriptions you saw on the church wall was indeed the day these two boys were born and now we also know the exact date they disappeared and were presumably murdered, most likely cementing their love for each other on Luke's fourteenth Birthday.
I have to add that the names are so close to your own, probably evolved over the centuries as Papal meaning Pope and Michael morphing into Carmichael given that Lucas mentioned a Scottish connection, that somehow, and God alone has the answer but they're you in an earlier life. There can be no other rational explanation.
I hope to be in receipt of further information shortly but in the meantime, be good to each other, be happy and most of all, remember that, despite what anyone might tell you to the contrary, God surely loves you.
I hope we will meet again.
We both looked at each other and promptly burst into tears.
It took a while but eventually we managed to calm down to the degree that little bits of happiness managed to find their way in through the tears, the crunch came when Lucas started giggling.
"Why on earth are we crying Andy?"
"Search me! Stress relief maybe? We mightn't have proof positive but if it's close enough to convince Father O'Brian then it's more than good enough for me. We now have their names, Birthdays and presumably the date of their demise so let's find out if it would be okay to have a headstone placed at their grave. You up for it?"
"Yeah definitely. Why not? In honour of two early martyrs in the cause of gay rights!"
My turn to laugh!
"Yes well, I doubt that they saw themselves in that light! Just two young lads who were desperately in love. Now that really should be celebrated!"
"So……..not two lads who, knowing the possible consequences, still went ahead and had sex then?"
"No? Two lads who, knowing the possible consequences, still went ahead and made love to each other. There's a difference."
"There's a difference??"
"Yes of course there is! Having sex is sort of like doing it just to get your rocks off whereas making love is beautiful, meaningful and…….."
"Getting your rocks off."
"NOOO!! For God's sake Lucas? All the time I was unsure which road I was headed down, I wanted sex and with you but I needed to wait until I could commit myself to you. I knew that come the time I was sure about my feeling towards you, it would be the single most wonderful experience of my life and it was! You have no idea how frustrating it was just to look at you knowing you wanted me and that if I'd said yes, you would've had me in bed in a heartbeat but I wanted, needed it to be right! Yes I realise it was doubly frustrating for you, you were so kind and patient and I loved you all the more for it but I couldn't risk doing anything just for a cheap thrill. Fuck it, I'm very happy I made that decision!"
"Whoa Andy? Did I touch a raw nerve? Don't you realise I was just taking a prod at you?"
"Yes……..I know it. One final comment okay? I thought I knew but wasn't 100% sure but I had your friendship and that meant so much to me, in fact looking back on it, I should've read the writing on the wall but I was only a kid back then and I was scared about my feelings but that isn't my point. I had your friendship but then if I'd thrown caution to the wind and we'd ended up and I quote, having sex together and having done so I then realised I was straight? Nothing we had before would ever have been the same. I would have lost my best friend and all for the sake of a jolly."
"Sooo……..you don't think our boys were just at it for kicks then?"
"They were us shit for brains! They were in love with each other! Why would they, or God if you like, go to all the trouble of giving us signs if not to prove the point?"
"I'm still taking prods at you, you dickhead!"
"You wanna take a prod at me? Take me to bed and you can prod my brains out!"
"Whoo-hoo……..GAME ON!!! "
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