a deleted scene from THE SAINT
“Do you not have your own Bible, Eleanor?” Søren sounded horrified as if she’d confessed to not owning a toothbrush or a single pair of underwear.
“Mom has a couple at the house. I had some kids’ Bible but it’s mostly pictures. I like the one of Adam and Eve with all the strategic leaf placement.”
“You need your own Bible and one without pictures. Come with me.”
Eleanor followed him from the Fellowship Hall and back to the church. She stood outside his office while he scanned his bookshelves.
“What is your favorite color?” he asked, running his fingertips along the spines of the books. Eleanor watched from the threshold, careful not to cross it.
“I don’t know. Red, I guess.”
“Red leather it is then.” He pulled a book off the shelf and handed it to her. She now held what appeared to be a brand-new, never opened red leather-bound Catholic Bible. She’d seen one like that in the Catholic bookstore her mother had taken her to once. She’d loved the feel of the leather, the scarlet cover but didn’t have a spare fifty to drop on a Bible, not when she had no plans on ever reading the book anyway.
“You’re giving this to me?”
“I have dozens of Bibles. No one ever knows what to buy a priest as a gift. I have Bibles in every translation, in every color, in every binding. I would much rather you use the Bible than leave it sitting on my shelf.”
“It’s beautiful. I might actually read it.”
“You’ll have to read it,” he said as he stepped past her. “Come with me. Exercise time.”
“More soul push-ups?”
“Exactly. We’ll start The Spiritual Exercises today.” Søren led her into the sanctuary and up the stairs.
“In the choir loft?”
“It’s lovely up here. An excellent place to pray and meditate.”
And be alone to make out like horny rabbits, Eleanor noted as they took a seat in the back pew. No one in the sanctuary would see them up here even if they looked. She liked the choir loft already.
“So what do we do?”
“The Spiritual Exercises are ideally performed in a four-week silent retreat. As you are under community service and I don’t think we could get you to stop talking for one hour much less thirty days-“
“I can shut up if I have to.”
Eleanor thought about that question.
“Okay, you’re right. No I can’t. Go on.”
“Thankfully The Spiritual Exercises are designed to be flexible. Clergy and the laity alike can benefit from them. They’re divided into four parts so we’ll start on the first week of exercises.”
“My soul stretched for a good team minutes. It’s ready.”
“Good. The theme of the first week of the Exercises is gratitude and awareness of sin.”
“That’s two themes.”
Søren raised his finger.
“Excellent thought. You are, however, entirely wrong. First of all, when we are grateful to God for all He has blessed us with, it’s impossible not to realize how unworthy we are of His gifts. When we become aware of our sinfulness, we are grateful that God is so forgiving. The two are intimately intertwined. You cannot have true gratitude without awareness of sin. You cannot have true awareness of sin without gratitude.”
“Gotcha. Makes sense.”
“Good. Now what we are going to do is mediate on the things we are most grateful for.”
“These exercises are to be done in silence.”
“I hate silence.”
“You’ll learn to love it eventually. C.S. Lewis says Heaven if full of silence and music. In Hell one hears only noise.”
“I’d be grateful for some music.”
“Better than silence.”
Søren stood up and headed toward the stairs.
“Where are you going?” she called out after him.
“You stay up here and meditate. I’ll provide the music.”
“Try 96.1. They play the most Pearl Jam,” she said as he headed down the stairs. Briefly she wondered what sort of music he would play for her. Last year Father Greg had put in a new sound system. They often played CDs of hymns or someone reciting the rosary during special prayer times. Maybe she could talk him into playing Enigma. It had Gregorian chant it in. That made it religious, right? Or Madonna. Madonna was basically Catholic music.
Eleanor heard music starting but the sounds didn’t come through the speakers in the choir loft. They came from below her in the sanctuary. She peered down and saw Søren at the upright piano. The music came from him.
Kneeling at the balcony, she rested her chin on her arms and watched as Søren’s hands danced across the keys of the piano. She had no idea what he was playing but she hoped he never stopped playing it.
Gratitude, Elle. She was supposed to thinking about gratitude. Well, that’s wasn’t hard. Here she was at church listening to the most beautiful man in the world play the piano for her when she should have been in Juvie.
Crazy really. She’d fucked up so badly. Her lawyer Helen had warned her the first time they spoke that it was highly likely she could face real criminal charges. She’d committed multiple felonies. If they got lucky with a sympathetic judge, she’d be sent to juvenile detention. If they had a zealous prosecutor or a hanging judge, she might end up in an adult women’s facility. Somehow all the stars had aligned in her favor. The court decided to try her as a juvenile as long as she answered the questions they asked her about her father and his operations. They judge took into account her lack of prior convictions and her family situation—divorced parents, a mother who worked two jobs, a father with mafia connections. Her life could have been over, because she hadn’t been strong enough to tell her father no. Instead she had this new chance to make everything better. She had Søren now. He was her priest, her friend, and if he kept his part of the deal, he would be something so much more to her someday. What had she done to deserve all this good stuff?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
The music stopped. Eleanor had no idea how long Søren played. The clock said an hour but surely that wasn’t right. It passed in minutes.
Søren came back up to the choir loft and smiled as he saw her kneeling at the balcony.
“You play piano.”
“Whatever makes you think that?”
She laughed and turned her head, resting it on her arm as she looked at him.
“And so humble too.”
He laughed. “Humility is simply knowing your strengths and weaknesses.”
“Why aren’t you in an orchestra or something?”
“I am. On call only. Orchestras rarely need a pianist except for special music.”
“Can I come hear you play sometime?”
“You may. I would like that. Did the music help with your meditations?”
“Sort of. The music helped me to be grateful for music. I don’t know if that counts.”
“It does count. Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.”
“It isn’t really spiritual like being grateful for Jesus or for forgiveness.”
“God created music. If you’re grateful for the gift, you’re grateful to the giver. Anything else?”
“Yeah, but it’s kind of stupid.”
“There is no such thing as a stupid mediation.”
“What if I was mediating on what the baby of a zebra and a cheetah would look like?”
“That would be odd, but not necessarily stupid.”
Søren sat on the pew next to her. She turned around and realized that she sat at Søren’s feet. She leaned back against the choir loft balcony wall and smiled up at him. She could definitely get used to sitting at his feet.
“Okay, I’ll tell you the truth. I am grateful,” she began, hoping she wasn’t blushing, “for you.”
Søren raised his eyebrow.
“Yup. Here’s the thing.”
“Eleanor, these mediations can remain between you and God. You don’t have to share them with me.”
“I want to. I need to. So last night I was in the living room working on my announcement. I couldn’t do it in my room because of the tuna.”
“You have tuna in your room?”
“Long story. Just remember if you ever have half a tuna sandwich, throw the other half away somewhere other than under your bed.”
“Anyway, so Mom turned on the news while I was writing. I wasn’t paying any attention but then they started talking about this girl. Jerrika Something.”
“Someone you know?”
“Never heard of her before. But she’s sixteen, my age. And she was in Juvie, had been in Juvie for a year. She was on the news because she had to go to the hospital.”
“Was she ill?”
Eleanor shook her head.
“Pregnant. A girl locked up in prison shouldn’t get pregnant, right? Only other girls around. Girls and guards.”
Søren steepled his fingers and shook his head in disgust.
“She’d been raped by one of the guards there. Repeatedly. She was on the news because they were doing tests on the baby to get evidence against the guard. You know what she was in Juvie for?”
“Do I want to know?”
“Vandalism. Graffiti. She tagged cars with spray paint. I stole five cars and got community service. She painted them and got raped in Juvie. Mom saw the news story. She saw me watching it. She said, ‘Thank God that wasn’t you. It could have been you.’ I don’t know if I can thank God. Why would He save me from that and not Jerrika? But I should thank you. So, you know, thank you.”
Søren reached out and cupped the side of her face. With his thumb he brushed off a tear.
“Look at that,” he said, turning his hand so the light caught the tear on his hand. “Someone has a conscience after all.”
She laughed and swiped at her face.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“I will tease you any chance I get, Young Lady. And I fully expect you to do the same to me.”
“I can do that. First of all, you’re too tall. Second, you’re way too blond. Who has hair like that?”
“The people. My mother is Danish.”
“Your mother is a pastry?”
“She is very sweet.”
“That joke was horrible.”
“Then why are you laughing?”
“Just trying to boost your self-esteem, Blondie.”
“Did you just call me Blondie?”
“Yes, Call Me is by Blondie. Great song.”
“I really don’t know what to do with you, Eleanor.” Søren rose and walked to the stairs. He waved at her indicating she should stay.
“I have suggestions.”
“They mostly involve rope.”
“Good,” Søren said as he headed down the stairs.
“Why is that good?” she called after him.
“Because I have rope.”