|Wednesday night at Maureen's apartment|
should be. He kept an exceptionally close eye on his bride's comings and goings, but worked at not appearing to hover. The lady in question did her utmost to avoid giving her groom anything more to worry over, and was the picture of demur submission, while her brother was a spiritual presence of peace, calm, and general good will.
Unfortunately, none of these traits were exclusively true to who they all were, and thus impossible to pull off for any length of time. It took nearly three weeks for the cloud's silver lining to tarnish, and for the expected rain of discord to fall. And like most arguments, it had started over something silly. The three had gotten in the habit of getting together at Maureen's apartment on Wednesday evenings to share supper, and to go over plans for the wedding. Realistically, the night usually ended up with Beckett and Kevin playing gin rummy, while Maureen sat at the same kitchen table writing invitations, arranging seating charts, and soliciting general opinions about nuptial nonsense.
As the wedding date inched closer, things became more hectic, and this particular Wednesday, Mo was in the process of opening the response cards, and check marking the guest list. The men half-heartedly shuffled cards, keeping one eye on the hockey game, and listening to the litany of who was coming, who sent regrets, and the bride's running commentary on the whole matter. So when she shrieked over one particular card, and no one responded, she was slightly put out over their lack of interest.
Hoping to get their attention, she slid the card toward Beckett. "Ted...you'll never guess who's coming to our wedding..."
Eyes still glued to the Bruins game, he picked up the card, but didn't look at it. "That's great, baby.
I'm glad you're happy."
Annoyed, she tried again. "Okay, then... if you don't care that Kevin's old 'girlfriend' is coming to our wedding, it's fine with me." She flopped down into the chair, and waited for their response, which took all of three seconds.
"Kevin's girlfriend?" His interest piqued, Beckett looked at her brother and grinned.
Across the table, Fr. Kevin's face had gone pale. "Maureen, you're not funny."
"No...really Kev. I invited Roxie. How could I not? And I just got the card back. She's coming!"
Beckett gathered the cards in front of him, smirking at Kevin's discomfort. "Me thinks there's a story here. Spill the beans, Fr. Kevin. Who's Roxie?"
Kevin fidgeted in his chair, and sent his sister a look that would freeze paint. "My sister's just being a jerk. Roxanne was a kid who once lived down the block from us in South Boston."
"Oh come on, Kev! Admit it! She was your one true lady love. Until Daddy put a stop to that."
Going from pale to pink, Kevin protested. "I'm asking you nice, Mo. Knock it off. Besides, you're exaggerating...like you always do. Roxanne was not my girlfriend, and Ted isn't interested in hearing dumb family stories about when we were kids."
"Au contraire, dear Padre. I'd love to hear this story. I'm all ears, baby."
Pleased to have her fiance's undivided attention, Maureen settled herself in for a solid bout of storytelling, while her brother stood, and wandered over to the window. "Well...you see...it was like this. It was the summer after I had just turned 10, and Kevin was going to be 16 in July. I remember clearly, because he was all in a fuss about getting his driver's license, and I had just gotten a new bike.
Anyways, old Mrs. Callaghan had died the winter before, and her house was for sale. It sat empty for months, and then one day, we see this moving van pull up, and these guys start carrying out all this fancy furniture. You know the kind I mean, that curly French stuff with the vinyl covers over the seats?" She waited until Beckett nodded his understanding, making sure he was actually paying attention to what she was saying. "A little while later, a brand new station wagon pulls up, and this whole family gets out. Four boys, and one girl." She turned toward her brother, teasing, "I'm sure you only remember seeing Roxie, huh, Kev?"
From his position at the window, Fr. Kevin covered his ears. "See, Maureen. I"m not listening."
"That's so childish, Kevin." She turned back to Beckett, and continued her story. "Anyway, the girl came over and introduced herself. Said her name was Roxanne Spinelli, and her family was moving into the old Callaghan place. And that her dad was opening a candy store three blocks down, and she'd be happy to give us some free samples. Well, that got my attention, but Kevin only had eyes for the girl. I thought I'd have to close his mouth manually."
Beckett leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, smiling from ear to ear, and gave the priest an exaggerated wink. "Well, well, well...so the sainted Fr. Kevin is human after all. Like those dark eyed beauties, do we, Padre?"
"Shut up, Beckett. It wasn't like that at all."
"Hey...I'm telling the story! So, anyway, this girl sits on our front porch, and tells us all about her family. They were originally from New York, and her dad wanted to start his own business, so they came to Boston. She had four brothers, two older, and two younger, and she was going to be 15 in October." With a giggle she added, " And all the time she's talking, she's staring at Kevin like he's a slice of Boston cream pie."
Blushing terribly, Kevin stormed back to the table. "Okay, Maureen. Now you're just making shit up."
"I am not making stuff up, Kevin O'Kenney. You two were attracted to each other like a couple of dime store magnets. And I really hate when you take this 'holier than everyone else' attitude. I'm your sister, remember? I was there!"
Realizing things were getting way too heated, Beckett interrupted. "Okay. So it's obvious Kevin didn't end up with this girl. Finish the story Maureen...and for Kevin's sake, try not to editorialize."
Maureen gave her brother the evil eye, and continued. "Kevin and Roxie become quite an item that summer. They spent every waking minute together. Then Daddy came home, and said that Mr. Spinelli had been arrested for running a numbers racket out of the back of the candy store, and we were forbidden to have any contact with that family. Kevin raised a huge hissy fit, but Daddy was adamant, especially where Kevin was concerned. Kev was already talking about applying to the seminary, and he needed a letter of recommendation from Mgnsr. Kelly. Daddy said it was unseemly for someone who was considering the priesthood to be running around with some Italian girl anyway, and being connected to the Spinellis wouldn't help his chances of getting into Holy Trinity. Kevin agreed, but then, Dad caught him sneaking out through a window to see her, and all hell broke loose. Mama cried for a week, and Dad beat the crap out of him. He was grounded until school started in September."
Beckett watched Kevin's expression go from embarrassed to stone faced, and looking to diffuse the situation, tried to put an end to Maureen's story. "And let me guess... Roxie eventually ends up happily married, with a dozen kids. Or better yet, for true irony, she decides she has a calling too, and joins a convent." Amused at his own witty repartee, Beckett smiled, and took a sip of the Cabernet in front of him.
Stifling a giggle, Maureen, retorted, "Well, that's where you're wrong, Mr. Know-it-All. Roxie Spinelli went off and became a stripper. She works at Big Al's in Boston."
Unable to control himself, Beckett started to laugh, causing him to spray the last bit of wine across the tablecloth. Tried as he might, he couldn't contain his guffawing over the thought that Fr. Kevin's heart's desire had ended up an exotic dancer in a gentlemen's club. Wiping tears from his eyes, he apologized, "Damn, Kev, I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh, but the vision of you and a stripper just cracks me up."
For a second, Fr. Kevin looked so forlorn, that even Beckett felt guilty, and when the priest spoke, his voice was without it's usual cheerful cadence. "I'm glad I could provide the evening's entertainment." He turned to face his sister, who was looking a bit sheepish herself. "Why would you even invite Roxanne Spinelli to your wedding, Maureen. You haven't seen her in years."
"Actually, Kev, that's not true. I ran into her at Boston College, when I was working toward my Masters. She was taking some classes toward a B.S. in criminal justice. We exchanged numbers, and then kept in contact over the past two years. I had dinner with her just before I came here to Dollyville last October. She was a good friend when I really needed one." Looking to make amends for obviously hurting him, she added, "She always asks about you, ya know. Was really happy for you when I told her you got your own parish."
There was no response to the comment, and the silence in the room felt oppressive. Kevin grabbed his jacket from the hook by the door. "If you don't mind, I think I'm gonna call it a night. I'll talk to you guys later in the week." He wandered down the hallway stairs, and then quietly shut the door behind him.
Roxanne Spinelli. Now there was a name he hadn't brought to mind in a very long time. On purpose. And for very good reasons. He had buried the name, along with a whole slew of guilty memories, in the furthest corners of his brain, and their reemergence made him feel queasy. Grateful that the drenching rain had stopped, Fr. Kevin turned in the opposite direction of the church and rectory, and slowly ambled down the dark, wet streets of Dollyville.
Truth be told, Maureen's story was pretty much on the mark, with some missing key elements that she was luckily unaware of. He remembered every moment of the day Roxanne had come to his South End neighborhood. The large paneled moving truck. Maureen whining about the heat. His brothers dumping water down her back, and her little girl attempt to fight back. And of course, Roxie in her yellow sundress, her dark hair pulled back in a long, glossy braid.
When she sat down on the O'Kenney stoop, he thought his heart would stop beating, and as hard as she worked at engaging him in conversation, he still couldn't manage to form more than a word or two at a time. It wasn't until Maureen, tired of being ignored, took off on her new bike, and left the two of them alone, that she finally succeeded in getting him to chat. He discovered that in addition to being the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, she was smart, funny and easy to talk to. Right then and there, he had been smitten, and the next three weeks of his summer break was spent with the only girl who had ever made him rethink his desire to enter the seminary.
And although he could remember every detail of the day he met her, what followed in the months to come required years of patience, and prayer, to try and forget. He could distinctly recall the evening his father came home with the news about Gino Spinelli's arrest. His old man was already grumpy before he hit the door, hot and over tired, plus annoyed at the collection of bikes, Rollerblades, and skateboards strewn across the driveway. He had seated himself at the head of the table, as was his custom, and demanded the appearance of his children. Only Kevin, Maureen, Brendan and Will were home at the time, the others still at jobs, classes, or living on their own, but there was no getting around the guarantee of obedience the senior O'Kenney demanded.
Kevin had tried pleading with his father, arguing that it was unfair to punish Roxanne, or he, over the sins of her parent, but Big Bill O'Kenney was not a fan of democracy in his own home, and there was no changing his mind. All Kevin received in response to his complaints was a quick swat to the back of the head, and an admonishment stating his need to "straighten up and fly right". As much as he hated being disobedient, and equally disliked breaking the fourth commandment, the pull of Roxie was too much, and he began to sneak out his bedroom window every night after his parents had gone to bed.
It was never clear how he had been found out. Maybe his dad was smarter, or more observant, than a teenage Kevin had thought. Maybe one of his siblings had tattled on him. He was never sure. But a week after he had started his nightly escapes, he found his father was waiting for him on the other side of the window. What followed was ugly. His dad was extremely angry and disappointed, and used his belt to show Kevin just how displeased he was. It was humiliating enough to be whopped like a naughty five year old when he was nearly 16, and stood a head taller than his father, but it was his mother's tears that undid him. He remembered her praying out loud, begging God to overlook his indiscretions, and to still call her son to a vocation in His service. The memory made him feel ashamed.
After much discussion, it was decided that Kevin was grounded for the rest of the summer, and was to spend every afternoon helping Fr. Joe over at Our Lady of the Angels. His punishment was to be his salvation. He found a sympathetic ear in Fr. Joseph Hannigan, and for the first time since he'd met Roxanne, someone who understood his confusion about his calling. He suggested that Kevin spend this time away from the girl in prayer and meditation, and if he still felt the same way about her when school started in September, he would personally talk to Bill O'Kenney on Kevin's behalf. It was a fair and compassionate offer, and Kevin did his best to comply.
In his case, absence did not make the heart grow fonder. Time in the church and rectory gave him a calm perspective to review what it was he believed he wanted. Fr. Joe never pushed him in one direction or the other, but was always willing to hear him out, and by the time his Junior year started in September, Kevin was once again committed to applying to the seminary. And if he had gone to Roxanne at that point, and honestly explained his change of heart, things might have worked out quite differently. But because he had not, fifteen years later, her name made him feel lousy.
When the fall session at St. Bridget's began in September, Roxanne greeted him like a long, lost friend. She, in return, received nothing but a cold shoulder. Not knowing how to handle the situation, and afraid of an embarrassing scene, he ignored and avoided her, and at one point, rudely told her to leave him alone. As long as he lived, he'd never forget the awful look of hurt on her face. When her father was arrested, he was sure she had been subjected to all kinds of taunts and humiliation. It was the way of things in his neighborhood. But to have someone she had thought was a friend, someone special, turn on her in such a manner, must have been devastating. To his relief, the obvious problem soon disappeared, along with Roxanne Spinelli. Burdened with the cost of legal issues, the family sold their home down from the O'Kenney's, and moved across town. Roxanne withdrew from St. Bridget's, and the last he had heard, graduated from some public high school in the North End.
For years, he had tried to confess that same sin over and over, but the look on her face never truly left him. He considered his shunning of her as one of the worst things he had ever done, and now, after all these years, it appeared that his chickens had finally come home to roost. There was no way he would be able to avoid her at Maureen's wedding. He was a grown man. An ordained priest in the service of the Lord. He counseled people all the time over making amends. So why, then, didn't he have any advice for himself?
Copyright 2013 Victoria Rocus
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