The line for the confessionals had gotten shorter. The row of kids in front of me was getting up, now. Soon it’d be my turn.
Bless me father, I thought, automatically, for I have sinned…
“If you can…” came from the pew behind me. “Go to Father Kim!” Loud whispers. Super-cool Mary Grace Hardy and her pals. “Just five Hail Marys, he’ll give you,” Mary Grace assured the others.
Muttered approval. Snickers.
“Gook fuck. Tell him you slit your mother’s throat…‘Five Hail Marys!’ ” she added, in this singsong voice.
Poor Father Kim, I thought. Just ‘cos he was Korean, they took advantage of him. All the confessions he had to hear! I felt sorry for him.
But worse for me.
Sue Palmisano was right behind me. If I had long, sleek hair like Cher’s, Sue might’ve set fire to it. Roseanne Caso would’ve helped. Even with my shorter, frizzy hair, I cringed.
Just look straight ahead, Carmella, Ma had told me. Ignore them. They’re just jealous.
Jealous? I’d thought. Of what? Carmella Tucci, the fattest, whiniest kid in eighth grade? Maybe in all of St. Stephen School. On top of everything else, I had the dumbest mother alive. The craziest. No wonder Pop was always drunk.
“Thing is,” Mary Grace said, “Asshole don’t speak English!”
Nobody laughed. But you knew they were smirking.
Poor Father Kim, I thought again. Poor me.
Straight ahead I stared, at the altar. Pale gray and pink marble, it was. Soon it would be Easter. Rebirth, I thought, longingly. Even death itself beat all this fear. This madness.
Sometimes I wondered what heaven would be like. Maybe being skinny, like the other kids. But able to eat all the chocolate ice cream I wanted. Or listening to Beatles records all day. The White album.
Maybe having a real friend. Or just staring at a marble altar like this, all day long, for all time, ‘cept feeling safe.
I was so scared, my teeth chattered. Any minute, it would start. Why else would they have sat behind me?
Hurry up! I thought. But the line had stopped moving.
Only here in Church, waiting to confess their sins, could the Hardy clique fool you. Fool grown-ups, anyway. Normal kids, they looked like. Okay, their plaid uniform skirts were way too short. Mary Grace and Roseanne wore thick eyeliner, Sue white lipstick. She always looked like she ate a powdered donut. They all teased their hair, like those groovy English models.
Truth is, they were demons. As cruel as those nuts from last summer. The Manson girls. The Hardy clique was just as bad. Just waiting to slice up some pregnant celebrity, and rip out her unborn baby. Believe me, I knew.
Sit up straight, I told myself. Both here, in Church, and back in the classroom. My neck and scalp felt all sweaty. Eyes front. No matter what, ignore them.
Roseanne snickered. “Check out Darcey,” she said.
“Ooooooo!” Sue squealed.
My heart lurched. Mike Darcey. Even worse than the Hardys, he was. But…
With that dirty grin, Mike was squeezing his dick…right outside the confessional! Where he’d just told Old Father Reeves his sins! Naturally, Sister William was nowhere around.
Real fast, I looked back at the altar. Nobody knew it—‘cept God—but…
Oh, God, I dug Mike Darcey! A fallen angel, he looked like, with real long, curly hair like Roger Daltrey’s from the Who. And the palest blue eyes, like those statues with no eyes, just empty circles. He was wiry, and short, and I would’ve died for him!
Boys, Ma had said, just want one thing.
Not from me, I’d thought, miserably. Every week my uniform skirt felt tighter. Ma wouldn’t let me wear it above my knees. Walking down the street, I got stares. Even old people felt sorry for me! Old guys outside the candy store gave me sad, knowing smiles. And it was just this year that she let me go outside alone. . . .
“Shove over!” I heard now, behind me. Mike.
Giggling, the Hardy clique made room for him. “Duck! Willie’s looking,” Mary Grace warned. She meant Sister William.
“Fuck her,” he said, smugly.
My cheeks felt as pink as the altar. His voice that close made me feel twice as fat. And retarded.
“You’re supposed to sit back with the guys.” You could hear Sue’s smirk.
“Wha’ja tell Reeves?” Roseanne demanded.
Finally that line was moving. My row was next. Thank you! I told God.
“I told him,” Mike said, all swaggery, “I missed Mass a thousand fucking times…”
“You did not,” Sue said.
“I stole a thousand dollars outta my fucking mother’s purse…”
Mary Grace laughed. “Darcey, you’re fulla shit.”
“I’m not finished yet.” Mike sounded insulted. “I said a bad word, last month, I think it was. Oh, yeah!” he said eagerly. “And the big one…”
In those few silent seconds, you could feel trouble coming. In my chest, my heart battled my ribs. Time just…stopped.
He leaned forward and over, so his lips nearly brushed the back of my neck. “I fucked…Tucci.”
I shut my eyes tight.
Sue smothered a giggle, but Mary Grace laughed out loud.
“I did,” Mike said.
Behind my lids, tears burned.
“Willie’s coming!” Roseanne said, but Mike was on a roll.
“In my dreams,” he said, right in my ear. “My wettest, wildest dreams! My cock got so hard, thinking about that big, fat, smelly…”
As my first tear fell, Sister William showed up, finally. “Back with the boys, Mr. Darcey!” she growled. When she saw my face, hers fell.
Mercifully, my row was up. I stumbled to the end of the pew, and got on line.
“Why are you crying?”
Inside the confessional, the air was close. In all the world, there was no darker place, but you swore the priest recognized you.
But not Father Kim! Didn’t we…All look alike to that gook, one kid had said.
And wasn’t that…English he was speaking?
“Huh?” my voice came out squeaky.
“I said,” he said, a little louder, “Why are you crying?”
Maybe that was all the English he knew. Said it to everybody who came to confession. Snotty kids. Old, black-veiled Italian ladies…
‘Cept I was crying. The whole time he was listening to the kid on the confessional’s other end. Usually, I covered my ears, and tried to block out the voices. A sin, I’d heard it was, to eavesdrop, especially in here.
All my sins had gone out of my head. Even missing Mass, the biggest of all. Weeks of anxiety, I’d had over that. Fears I’d get smashed by a truck, and go straight to hell.
This was a new kind of hell. Ruled by Mike Darcey.
“I’m…not…crying.” My chest heaved with sobs
Silence. Father Kim was so patient. Maybe someday he’d be a saint. “Whatever you tell me,” he said gently, “Stays right here.”
I squinted at his silhouette. It sure looked like Father Kim.
I kept my voice low. Darcey’s spies were everywhere. “I can’t tell you,” I said. “If I rat them out, they’ll get me.”
He actually chuckled. “Who are they?”
I shifted my position on the kneeler. “You know them. I think. They look just like everybody else.”
“Oh.” He sounded amused.
“Actually, their skirts are shorter. The girls’, I mean. He…”
“They make you sad, don’t they? Afraid to be yourself. The courageous young girl God meant you to be.”
Who was I, Joan of Arc? I thought.
“There is much sadness in this world. Troubles, for all. War. Pollution. Prejudice…”
I shifted, uncomfortably.
“Senseless killings…” His voice drifted off.
Real strange, I was starting to feel. Like I was trapped in this velvet box. Maybe I was dead. When he’d leaned over before, maybe Darcey had slit my throat from behind. What I‘d thought was sweat was blood, drenching my uniform blouse and woolen vest. But in here, it was too dark to see. The darkness was too deep…
The darkness, it said in the Bible, will always come to the light!
Just then, it came to me. No matter what the papers said, I had the real story. They had been there: all four of them. I just knew it.
“Father…” The sound of my own voice brought me back. “About those killings…”
“Which ones?” He sounded confused.
“Nobody knows it,” I said, “But they were involved.”
“Who? Involved in what?”
I could feel myself smiling. I’d been in there so long, I bet their row was up. Mary Grace was probably right outside, listening. But I was glad.
In my vision, you saw blood, all over. Not just in writing, but splashing down the walls. A crimson waterfall, out of control! Pulpy bodies littered the floor. Lots of them. The papers had said they’d been killed outside. Oh, yeah?
Next, Roseanne and Sue held the lady down, while Mary Grace chopped up that fetus inside her. Screams hurt my ears. Sounds of flesh being torn from bones…
From the couch, Darcey watched, giggling maniacally. He’d cracked a beer from that poor lady’s fridge. As her eyes rolled up into her head, he’d told us what we already knew: “I am the Devil!”
Father Kim was waiting.
I changed the subject. “I missed Mass,” I told him.
Thank you to Cindy for sharing this reprint of How Deep Will The Darkness Be! (it originally appeared in Black Petals)
Cindy Rosmus is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out a lot, so needs no excuse to do whatever she wants. She hates shopping and shoes, chick lit and chick flicks. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled; Shotgun Honey, A Twist of Noir; Beat to a Pulp; Pulp Metal; Thrillers, Killers, n’ Chillers; Mysterical-E; and Powder Burn Flash. She is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s also a Gemini, an animal rights activist, and a Christian.