Sacred (Excerpt) By
Blankets of snow covered the roofs across town, hair was now a new shade of white. The sound of crunches on the white substance swarmed around her as she kept her hands deep into her pockets to retain warmth. She sunk her head deeper into the hood of her ocean blue, puffed up jacket that fell down past her knees. A thick, rough folder was stuck in between her left armpit filled with sheets of music that went on and on and never seemed to stop. She glanced back at her house not too far from here where the kitchen lights were giving life to the home and she was still able to make out her mother’s figure as she roamed around, preparing batter in a bowl.
Marie sighed, bringing her head back to capture the total view of the building in front of her as if it were a giant from a land far, far away. Her mouth was slightly agape as snowflakes landed on the tip of her tongue. “Wo-”
“Excuse me, miss? I need to get through.”
“Right, of course. Sorry.” Marie lowered her head and moved to the side of the staircase. Hundreds poured into this building, from whining children in strollers to the elderly with books held to their hearts. Although the chatter of most groups who walked in was something that could put the police on the run, Marie was only on the search for just one in particular as she stood on her tiptoes, scanning the area in hopes of finding a head with night black, bushy hair; someone that rose above all.
“Marie!” A hand waved across the hoards of people entering, attached to a body that kept coming up and coming down. She waved back, no longer afraid of the manner in which her heart glided across her chest like a love note drifting across Paris. She giggled from afar as the boy politely squished through the mass, ducking under legs and apologizing every other minute until he made his way out and locked eyes with her, now only a few feet apart.
“Hey.” He panted, smiling like a dog.
“I, um, I’m really glad you could make it.” He played with his slender fingers as he spoke.
“Thank you for inviting me.” She spoke delicately, contrasting the vicious snowstorm that threatened to take place very soon.
“Come on. We should probably go inside.” Ben grabbed her clammy hand as they ran, entering the building before Marie could blink.
“Oh wow.” The walls surrounding them were made of meranti wood as string lights wrapped around the perimeters of the walls, illuminating a soft white. As they passed the many pews that were covered with red velvet cushions, a large cross was smacked right in the middle of the wall in front of them with string lights once again, vibrating a strong, sunset yellow, so bright it pained Marie to continue eyeing in awe.
A couple seconds later, Ben had brought Marie to one of the four corners of the building and cleared his throat. His skin had grown pale rapidly and his palms were drenched in sweat. He gestured to the couple in front of them.
“Um, Marie, so this is..um..my aunt, Janet, and my uncle, John.”
A tall woman in white stood amongst her with heels that elongated her legs and a small purse from Chanel that matched her evergreen eyes. She was accompanied by a man slightly smaller with a receding hairline and dull hazel eyes. The taller of the two spoke first, immediately grabbing the hand of Marie with such great force.
“Oh my, you must be the newest piano player! I have been dying to meet you.” She grinned as she kept shaking her hands. “I used to be the pianist here when I was your guys’ age. Don’t your worry. You will get used to it.”
“Oh, no ma’am.” Marie chuckled, shaking her head as she detached her hand from Janet’s. “I’m just here for today. But I appreciate your kind words. Thank you.”
“Oh! Are you sure? We would love to have you here more often.”
“I’m not quite sure, ma’am.”
“Alright then. Well, you two better get going. The ceremony will begin soon. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“You as well.” Marie nodded as she watched the pair walk off into the distance and take their seats. Janet had held onto the hand of John with the same grip she had on Marie. It seemed as though they were no longer a healthy couple who fantasized of growing old together, rather an agitated mother dragging her troubled son across the stone pavement. But John didn’t seem to mind. John didn’t seem to have any thoughts in his mind at all.
Marie made her way across the aisle and went up the small steps where she laid her eyes on the grand piano that had candles on its top and glistened in the light. She placed her folder on the stand and covered her seat with her jacket. She took a breath in and out, sliding the palm of her hands up and down on her knees. She had done this before. Performing was something that was just second nature. But yet she could still feel the intense urge to vomit right then and there.
“You have played much harder music.” She jerked and flipped her head one hundred and eighty degrees. Ben had been by her side, unknowingly. “I’ve seen you play it like it was the easiest thing in the world. You will be alright.”
He wasn’t wrong. With a violin on his shoulder, Ben had sat by Marie for three years in class as they shared sheets of music. His eyes would widen at the way her bow glided across all four strings, swiftly. He sat still as Marie stood up from her seat to play the solo she always had, flooded with spotlights and surrounded by many. A euphoric sense swarmed through his veins when he would visit her annual piano recitals. She was one of the best their school has to offer and everyone knew that except her.
“Thanks.” She whispered as the noise from the crowd began to sink into complete silence.
“I have to go now.” He held her hand once more as they locked eyes, his cheeks flushing at the sight of her chestnut eyes. “Y-Y-” He swallowed. “You will be amazing.”
Marie watched as Ben’s wrap around her hand slipped away as he walked off the small stairs and took his seat. She didn’t even like playing the piano but yet there she sat. And she would lie to herself, saying she didn’t know why she was here in a place filled with people with such hope in a single individual, a topic so foreign to her. But when she would glance across the room and notice the small smile on Ben’s lips, she could feel the great strength of a magnetic force pulling her back.
She could hear someone clear their throat as she turned her head to the center at the altar. He gave a slight nod. It was time.
Marie played a sweet, angelic melody as her eyes examined the music in front of her, repeating the notes in her head before she played them. Her face grew solemn and her fingers felt like the swift waves of Hawaii.
In the corner of her eye, a figure came forward, drenched in white, not too far away from Marie. They grabbed what appeared to be a microphone from its stand and began to sing. What holy voice they had. The one that you can hear echoing throughout a cathedral in Rome. A voice that appears when the golden doors finally open.
Marie desired to hear more of it but she had only sung for so long. Eventually, the song about God and his beautiful philosophies had come to an end. As the applause soared across the room, Marie got up from her seat and joined the unknown singer to take a bow.
She had sunny blonde hair and eyes like the ocean. She was dressed in a long white dress that touched the floor beneath and had skin so fragile as if it were China glass.
“You were so good.” Marie whispered. The woman, who appeared to be in her early 20s, turned the other way as the priest in front of them commenced the service. The lady returned to where she stood.
Maybe she didn’t hear her. Marie swallowed. “Seriously, I have never heard someone as good as you sing. You’re incredible.”
No reaction. Marie sighed, turning her attention back to stacks of sheet music resting on her piano.
She probably didn’t want to hear Marie’s unusually high-pitched voice but that was alright.
“May god help you run away from these chains.”
Marie flipped her head around, furrowing her brows. “Sorry?”
The woman muttered under her breath once more. “May god help you run away from these chains.” And like that, she turned the other direction and made her way off the platform and into a door on the far left corner.
As the priest next to her took out a little pocket book from his cassock and words slipped off the top of his tongue, Marie found herself frozen in position, taken aback by the lady’s words. Was she alright? What did she mean? Why would she say that? Marie’s eyes kept on glancing from her music sheets to the door on the far left, the slight gap swarmed with pitch blackness. Marie could’ve walked off in an instant to begin a search for this lady through the entire building just to ask for some clarification. He was the only one and thing keeping her in her seat.
When Marie shifted her position to return facing the priest, she had caught him in a trance. His eyes closed tight and his hands clasped together, pressing them against the bridge of his nose with his head lowered, lips murmuring something Marie couldn’t comprehend. As a matter of fact, it seemed that everyone around her had fallen into this trance as well.
She noticed Ben perk his head up a bit, eyeing the people next to him cautiously. He then brought his head directly up and locked eyes with her once more. Ben gave a slight wave and a thumbs up. The growing pit in her stomach flushed away as she returned the gesture and Ben lowered his head again.
The priest had brought his head back up and everyone followed. His slender, lanky fingers turned the page of his pocket book. If it weren’t for a random cough amongst the crowd, Marie could’ve sworn she was in solitude.
“Let's move on.” His voice was low like a bass yet soothing. “Step by step, we are making this world a much better place. But we are not there yet. We are not even close. But one day, we will be. We must continue to keep on. And remember, a step back for one is a step back for all of us.”
“Erica Blanc Peters, please come forward.”
A girl, not far older than Marie was, gradually got on her feet, with skin as pale as a ghost and eyes bulged open. Her legs quivered as she approached the man, the tendons standing out in her neck once she met his eyes.
“Do you know why I brought you here, Ms. Peters?” He cocked his head and clasped his hands together. Erica shook her head. “No, Father.”
“Last week, it was reported to me that you had made love to an individual of the same sex.” His voice boomed so everyone, even those in the back, could make out his words. “Is that true?”
Marie watched from the sidelines the girl with the fiery hair begin to shake throughout her whole body. “Yes.”
“The Lord above is greatly disappointed in you, young lady.” He looked down upon her. “You have contaminated our progress with your disgusting way of living. The demon is inside you and we must get rid of it. Goodbye.” The priest gave a slight nod to a group of buff, tall men near the doorway. Within seconds, they marched in unison down the aisle, picking up the little girl off the ground and into the air. She punched and kicked. She bit down on their muscles and pulled at their hair. She screamed so loud that the chandeliers above them swayed from side to side. “No! No!”
Unconsciously, Marie took a couple of steps towards the mass of chaos, lifting her arm up to grab the red head’s hand. Along with the priest, the crowd began to chant, “The Lord is good. The Lord is good.”
Physical actions turned into verbal. “Hey! HEY! Let her go! Let her g-'' Something tugged at her wrist tightly. It was the lady from before whose sweet, serene voice was something too little to care about now.
“Piano girl, you should look at your next song.”
“No!” She ripped off the grasp the lady had on her and threw it to the side. “I’m not letting them take her away.”
For once, the lady showed she could feel something. Superiority. “Who?”
Marie turned her head around to see no one except the priest and the crowd, whose chant had finally died down. The redhead was gone. The pace of Marie’s heart quickened. It wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.
The lady with the heavenly voice accompanied her back to her seat at the grand piano as the priest continued. “On a more lighthearted note, I would like to bring out a young boy who is a perfect example of beauty in a horrid world. Please bring out Lucas Duncan.”
A boy appeared from the other set doors on the right side with guards on each side of him. His face appeared hollow with his cheeks sunk into him deep. A rope was tied around his bony wrists as he slouched his way towards the altar. The priest smacked both hands right on his shoulders, keeping him in place.
“Thanks to all members here today, Lucas Duncan is now leading a very happy and healthy life after we had discovered him in a horrid state of being and mind just a couple of months before. Thank you!” He beamed as he audience roared with applause.
“Throughout his time with us, Lucas has been participating in many fun activities with his other peers. He claims he now admired his sanctuary and wishes to never draw apart from it.”
Lucas’ legs quivered and were covered with bruises all over. His eyes were glassy yet he continued to smile. Lucas Duncan….where had she heard that name before?
“Hello, class. We have a new student with us today!”
Marie gasped, covering her mouth immediately. Her heart sank and a lump grew in her throat. Lucas Duncan had sat next to her in Chemistry class, making small talk whenever he needed a pencil. From the streets of Brooklyn, Lucas had moved with his family to a quiet and small town known as Newsham. He was tall yet friendly. Intelligent yet humble. One day he was by Marie’s side, gliding his pen across the paper, and the next day he was gone. And that was just a couple months ago.
The room grew cold. Her fingers went numb. Her heart began to race. She muttered, “I have to go.”
“Sorry?” The singing lady was still here, standing like a statue that witnesses everyday encounters. She took two steps forwards, hands clasped together over her stomach.
“I..” Her shoulders tightened. This place was still foreign to her. Odd and new. And she would rather keep it that way. She trembled. “I have to use the bathroom. I need to pee.”
“Bathroom’s through the doors. First door on your left.” The lady smirked, returning back to her position.
Slowly, Marie lifted the sides of her jet black dress to reveal her luxurious heels and bare ankles. Step by step, she reached the bottom and without distraction, approached the door not too far away, placing her hand swiftly on its rose golden knob.
The room had grown silent once more like a lonely universe. Marie turned her head behind. All eyes, even those in secret, were suddenly on her. Even Ben’s.
“Every second Sunday of the month, members of the church volunteer a friend in need; a friend who lacks their path to the Lord. Today is that day. Everybody, please welcome, Marie Amariez.”
Applause echoed throughout the walls. They all stood on their feet with Cheshire smiles as if they were laughing at her. Even toddlers, who were about as tall as a nightstand, brought their small hands together.
Incredibly confused, Marie backed herself into a wall, unable to take a step forward. She eyed everyone around her with her mouth ajar. They were laughing at her and they wouldn’t stop. She eyed Ben, her pupils pleading for help, pleading for an explanation. But he had kept his eyes on the grand piano instead.
“Don’t be shy, Marie.” The priest spoke, sweetly. “Your time has come.”
Marie gasped when a guard wrapped his meaty hands around her wrists, pulled them back, and pushed her entire body forward. She winced, biting down on her tongue to hold her tears back. Her head hung low.
“Unfortunately, our wonderful pianist, Amy Smith, had left this earth just last month. But fortunately, we now are given the opportunity to use Amy’s passing for something vital.” He turns his focus to her. “Marie, we have heard about your tragic life. We have heard that lately you have been under much pressure and stress. We would like to offer our services and help you.”
Marie lowered her voice, her brows scrunched. “What?”
“Marie, let me ask you a question,” He took a couple steps down from his superior stance to meet her fragile eyes. Marie could no longer pinpoint the priest’s intentions. She could no longer follow his eyes of grace that skimmed the small book that was once in his wrinkly hands, now in his pocket. Those had grown hard like rocks in a foggy forest and dull like a thrifted silver necklace.
“Who do you serve?”
“What?” Marie tugged against the grasp of the taller men. “I don’t understand you at all.” He chuckled slightly. “Here, we serve the Lord. Now, who do you serve?”
“No one.” She spat. “I serve no one. I don’t follow a rel-”
“That is why we are here to help.” He flashed a disgusting smile as Marie felt the world shrink around her. Her knees buckled as she swung by her arms back and forth, eyes bulged open. “We will provide you with Amy’s life, a holy life, to allow you to live in peace in whatever way we feel is best. We will not let you follow down that dark path of the unknown, Marie. Ben will not allow you down that path either.”
“So if you’re not Jewish, Catholic, or Christian, then what are you?” Ben asked as Marie and him packed their instruments in silk-lined hardwood cases one thundering Tuesday.
“Nothing.” She shrugged. “I don’t have a religion.”
“Ben?” She could feel a bullet through her patched heart and blood seep through her shirt.
“Take her.” The priest gestured to the guards as they lifted Marie from the floor and into the air once more. Like the girl from before, Marie could’ve failed her arms around and screamed until the glass above shattered, shards piercing the skin of the bystanders. But instead, Marie remained limp like a rag doll
whose heart had reached her toes and her eyes remained on Ben. Ben had his head dropped down. He knew. All of it. From the moment they had first met til the moment they stood outside this building, smothered in snowflakes. He also knew they would meet again, either underground or on the surface. He knew when that time should come, her heart would no longer be beating for him and him only, but for revenge and revenge only.
Danna Taboada (she/her) is a sixteen-year-old writer from New York. She loves listening to music of any genre, dancing, spending time with her family and friends, reading, and writing. She plans on majoring in Creative Writing in the future.