Golden sunlight peeked from behind clouds, touching the bustling streets and terra-cotta rooftops of Lucca. Near the city’s piazza, stood a glistening, grey cathedral. Its tall bell-tower soared upwards and spread cool shade over sunbaked pavement.
Suddenly, a figure burst from the large, wooden doors; wearing elegant clothes, obviously wealthy. A black-robed priest chased after him then halted upon the steps, raised his fist in the air and called out:
“Get away from here! I do not absolve people who aren’t sorry- your sin will be the death of you!”
The wealthy man turned and angrily gestured with his hand. After some shouting, he hastily left.
Still huffing with irritation, the priest spun, seeing a flash of bright red crossing the nearby courtyard. Squinting against vibrant daylight, another man, brown-haired, in his early thirties, came forth. His draping, scarlet finery rustled from the wind and he quickly snatched his small, red cap before it could blow away.
“Father Adreo, whatever is the matter?” he asked.
Anxious, Adreo stared down. He bowed, reverently kissed the man’s hand and replied, “Cardinal Fratelli, Your Eminence, I didn’t think I would see you so soon…I’m sorry this had to get your attention.”
“I was just strolling,” Fratelli said, “and heard you yelling. Are you upset? Do you wish to talk about it?”
For a moment, they stood awkwardly eyeing eachother.
Hesitantly, the cardinal began ascending the stairs but he stopped right in front of Adreo and stepped back. He waited silently for several minutes- then spoke,
“Father, you are blocking the door…”
“Oh!” Adreo exclaimed and moved aside.
He blushed, his fair-skinned face turning almost as red as the cardinal’s robes. Fratelli however, ignored this embarrassed display while he passed by. Entering into cold candle-lit air, he sighed; glad to escape from the summer sun. Walking solemnly with his hands folded, he chose a suitable place where he knelt quietly in prayer.
Peering up at the white, marble high-altar, smelling fragrant melted wax mixed with lingering, woody incense, he mumbled:
“Good Lord, be my shelter and relief. You know everything and so, you indeed know I’ve had a headache all day. If this suffering cannot be removed, O God, please… at least spare me from yelling and stress…”
Immediately after he finished this prayer, delicately signing a cross, some loud noise clanged outside. Jumping afoot, he muttered, “What now?”
Exiting through a side door, Fratelli looked upon broken glass, scattered paint-brushes and a man who sat next to a fallen cart. Splatters of every imaginable color surrounded him. His black hair streaked yellow and blue, he glumly frowned. As Fratelli approached, gingerly lifting the hem of his garb far from the paint-splashed ground, he jolted and spoke:
“I’m so, so sorry! I had been scheduled to come here, for restoration work in the cathedral…but was so excited, I lost my bearings! One thing happened, then another! Please forgive me?”
Although concerned, feeling utmost sympathy for this man, Fratelli bluntly asked, “You were supposed to work here today? Why didn’t anyone inform me?”
“I’ll clean all this up, Your Eminence…I promise…”
“Why doesn’t anyone tell me these things!”
The cardinal stomped off, leaving the painter alone to bemoan his colorful mess.
Sun shone through tall windows. Seated in the rectory office, an older priest; grey-haired and very short, browsed through a pile of letters. He raised his head when Fratelli rushed in.
“Did you see what happened outside?” the cardinal huffed.
“No, Your Eminence.”
“Father Rodrigo, the painter you sent here, without informing me of course…which is something we must speak about, he dropped all his things and the sidewalk… is now covered with every color of paint!”
“Lord, have mercy!” Rodrigo gasped, folding one arm against his chest.
“You will help him clean it up,” Fratelli said, “Then come back here so we can discuss why you keep forgetting to tell me things!”
Avoiding Fratelli’s hot gaze, Rodrigo scurried out.
Musing to himself, Fratelli now rested. Seated at the desk, he regarded the letters and began sorting them. One, addressed from London, England, caught his eye. Quickly, he opened the envelope and read aloud:
Dear, Angelo Cardinal Fratelli,
I have not forgotten about you and the wonderful times we shared when we were two, mischievous youths. You had always been a great friend of mine and at last, I’ve taken opportunity for a vacation in Italy. Summers here in London are dreary and depressing, so this arrangement is perfect!
I cannot wait to see you, visit and talk about where life has led us. In advance, I send this letter so preparations can be made for my reception. Don’t be too anxious, I’ll be there before you know it.
Your Old Friend,
Feeling shivers of excitement; Fratelli set down the letter, tapped his fingers on the desk then picked it up and read again. Though a dull pain still throbbed in his head, he felt glad- even relieved. He hadn’t seen Jack for fourteen years, since his ordination into priesthood. Truly, they would have so much to talk about!