The whole city of Canlagos was gathered in the church this early morning. Seeing more and more people showing up, everyone dressed in their finest clothes, women and men with their children, made me feel smaller and even more invisible than I would have ever thought to be possible. All the unfamiliar faces were staring at me, while Raguel introduced me to each and every one of the new faces. I shook a lot of hands, and was greeted by the noble men of the town and their wives. Though I was just waiting for the service to finally begin; I was less concerned with meeting Raguel's old friends and acquaintances. I was really only waiting for two people to finally make their arrival to the church: the inn-keeper of Canlagos and his beloved wife, Eleanor.
I was staring off down the aisle when I finally heard Raguel mention, “And this is Benjamin,” A recognizable boy was walking in through the door and headed toward us. “I suppose I heard that you two have already met each other.”
Yes, he did seem very familiar to me. Ben’s blue eyes met mine when he halted in front of me to shake my hand gently, “It’s good to see you again, Angel. And a pleasure to see you again too, pastor.”
When a woman in a long, terrible coat was calling to Raguel, he excused us and let me alone with the boy, who just didn’t seem to stop looking at me. Though his eyes were pretty, his gaze felt irritating and uncomfortable to me. “So, Raguel gave you a room in the church?” He then asked and began to walk farther into the church. Curiously, I walked after him.
“He did, yes.” I nodded my head and laid an arm on his shoulder, which made him stop and turn around. Now was the first time I realized he was a head taller than me, and he had to look down to meet my eyes. “Ben, you said something yesterday... about Henry and his wife. What was that all about? The rumors, what was it that you said again?”
A grin grew on his lips. “Angel, it’s just rumors. And for the record, it’s a long story and needs a longer explanation. I don’t think we will have time for that anyway.”
I looked around and saw how Raguel was walking closer to the altar, folding his hands and opening his mouth. And while his words were still just a whisper for my ears, I said at Ben, “Can you tell me later? After the service, maybe? I would really like to know.”
“Well, I guess we can,” He replied uneasily while he pulled his shoulders together and took a seat on the bench folding his hands. When I sat down next to him, he quickly whispered, “If it’s so important to you, but after not now.”
I nodded and faintly heard Raguel asking for specific prayer requests. I was sort of drifting away during this time, just waiting for the end so that I could talk to Ben afterwards about the rumors. Suddenly, it became quiet as Raguel prayed; I had to admit that he had a very good memory to pray for all the requests without pausing. After the opening prayer, we stood up to sing hymns.
The sound of the hymn made me feel rejuvenated and at peace. It left all the pain and hurt inside of me behind for a moment, and I felt like I could just fly. All of this was strangely recognizable though. As I sang, it was as if I had done it a thousand times before. But when?
When the congregation started singing the next hymn, I saw Henry and Eleanor make their arrival to the church. The second I met Henry’s eyes I felt them smile at me, and that was enough for me to turn around and look back at the pastor to officially call it my first service.
After receiving Communion, and after the last hymn was sung, Raguel continued the service and began his sermon. He started by reading from the verses I shared with him in Acts 22 last night. He then made his way into John 3:16 and read, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
When he was done reading verses he paused and looked above the congregation. He grasped my attention suddenly when he closed his eyes and finished his sermon, "Sometimes it is our mistakes that make us the best among men in the world. If we listen to the voices of the world, they speak not to degrade us but to encourage us to overcome that which we have been ultimately blessed with," He stopped again and looked back to the eyes of the congregation, "For what more could we lose if we never choose to overcome anything? I tell you that you are dead if you are foolish enough to not try."
When he stopped and acknowledged that he was done, people got up, all walking closer to the pastor to thank him. Among all these people, I was just following Ben. When we got outside the church after everyone had already left, everything was completely empty and quiet. There was not a single person on the sidewalks and no cars were driving on the roads.
“It is like this every Sunday,” Ben explained, “Everyone enjoys the time they get to spend at home.”
I nodded in understanding. I had no idea where he was taking me, but a part of me made me trust him. Maybe it was because I was purely curious about what he knew about the inn-keeper, maybe he knew something about the dead daughter, or maybe it was just of pure interest of where I was and what people I was surrounded by, that made me curious.
We only walked for five minutes or maybe less. He was showing me all the houses we passed and noted who lived in each. Of course, I wasn't paying too much attention to this. Quickly, we halted behind an old building that might have been a one-room schoolhouse decades ago because it did have a big iron-caste bell at the top of it, which led to my assumption. I leaned against the brick wall and looked at Ben with a waved eyebrow, only waiting for him to explain.
Before he went on to tell me, he made sure I understood that they were just rumors. After continuously answering and nodding 'yes', he finally opened his mouth and the words that followed, almost made my heart stop: “What if I told you, that Raguel isn’t so innocent about Isabella’s death, that you might think he is…?