A/N I own Nothing from The Da Vinci Code. Silas, Aringarosa, nothing. All I have are my Van Helsing posters and you can't have them! LOL! Enya owns the song "Amid the Falling Snow."
I felt as thought my word had simultaneously caved in around me and left me to die at the hand of a cruel world. When I came home that afternoon and saw my mother dead... I didn't even know what to think. I felt my heart sank into a deep uneven cavern of despair and slipped into my room before anyone arrived.
When the police told me she died of a heart attack I felt one tear slip down my cheek and strike the bedspread. After my father had left us five years ago she had never been the same. She had been sick so often and unusually down. I should have know what a horrible toil this would take.
In my mothers will it mentioned that when I turned 21, I would be the sole owner of all she had. Until then, I would remain in my families name, protected by a small bank in France called The Bank Of Zurich. My mother had lived in France as a child and most of her money and important artifacts had been kept there. I knew she had also known the manager of the bank because of an old photo I found in her desk one afternoon. Before she met my father. I kept it with me after I left the house that day.
The only question dealing with me was where was I going to go? I had no living relatives and my father was gone without a trace. Even if he hadn't left I knew he didn't want anything to do with me. I still had the scar on my back to prove it. I was still in school and I wasn't old enough to have my own place. A job yes, but not my own place. Besides, even the jobs I had worked at once never paid much. At least not enough to keep me going.
That was when the phone call arrived. I only overheard half of it, but from what I gathered, I wasn't going to like it.
My fathers side of the family had all once belonged to a sect of the Catholic Church called Opus Dei. Before My grand mother and father died, they left all their money to that organization and still to this day remained as high and respected members. My father left that sect long ago and my mother had never agreed with it. I was raised as a liberal non-denominational Christian and saw all religions as equal. No one greater than the other. I had read about Opus Dei in books and on the internet and their ideals scared me. Religious intolerance, self-flagellation... I didn't know what to think.
The police man talked to the caller and nodded.
"Yes... I'm sure you... The poor child has no where else to go, I'm sure it would be... yes. Yes, tomorrow then... Yes, she'll be on a plane tomorrow. Thank you Father... Good-bye."
The police man, whom I had learned his name was Vincent came over to me as I sat on the Couch, hugging my favorite stuffed animal of a small golden retriever.
Vincent sighed and gave an uneasy smile, "We found a suitable home for you."
"You're sending me away, aren't you?" I asked. Vincent sat beside me.
"Arene, you can't live on your own... and you said you didn't want to be adopted. Look, your sixteen now," He pointed out, "In a few years you can come home. Zurich will take care off all the needs of the house and it will be safe." He said.
I sighed, "Where will I go?"
Vincent looked at me, "An old friend of your fathers has arranged for you to go and live in New York for a while..."
My face lit up at once. New York! The city of cities! Broadway, Queens-
"Under the Protection of Opus Dei."
My face broke at once. I turned to him with a look on my face that seemed to say "What did you just say?"
"Opus Dei?" I asked.
Vincent nodded, "You'll have to leave most of your positions behind and we'll need to get you some new clothes."
"You'll leave for New York tomorrow." He said, before looking at me again, "I'm really sorry."
I held back my tears... Opus Dei? How was it... I stopped and took a deep breath in... I knew it was no good to cry. I went up to my room to pack and didn't come out the rest of the night.
My suitcase was light as I walked down the halls of the airport, dressed in a black shirt and pants. I felt startlingly empty as I had been driven away from the house. All of my stuffed animals, posters and pictures had to be left behind. All I had in my travel bag was some underwear, my tooth brush, a small reading lamp and my mothers old sliver crucifix. It was so beautiful, I couldn't leave it behind. It was all I had to remember her by. I had no clothes, I was told that though I wouldn't be stuck wearing a nun's uniform, I wouldn't be able to take my regular clothes. So, that was all I had.
That, and a tiny music box.
It was very small, as though it were the size of a baby kitten. It was white with little sliver carvings on the side and a heart on the top. When you turned the little crank on the underside, it played "Amid the Falling Snow" by Enya, my favorite singer. My grandmother gave it to me when I was a baby. She told me to play it when the lights were turned down low and I could see tiny snowflakes on the walls.
I said good-bye to Vincent and got on the plane. I took my seat by the window. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the sliver crucifix. I started at it for a moment, before unlocking the clasp and putting it on. As the flight attendants came by to close the overhead compartments, I closed my eyes, drifting into an uneasy sleep.
The plane ride was not very long and I slept most of the way. When we arrived at the airport, I took my small bag out from under my seat and pulled out and piece of paper I had been given by Vincent.
"Your escort will be waiting for you at the gate. Ask for Bishop Manuel Aringarosa."
As I stepped off the plane, I looked around. I saw families running to hug each other and people smiling as they greeted old friends with flowers and balloons. I smiled for them, happy they would be able to experience something like that. There was no one who seemed to be waiting for me.
That was when I noticed two men standing on the far side of the gate. Both men of the church. The shorter one was dressed in tradition black cassock with a red cincture. A Bishop of the Catholic church no doubt. He was probably middle aged with dark black hair and eyes that didn't look very friendly, but more inviting.
I couldn't properly see the other man as he wore what looked like a medieval monks robe and had the hood up over his head and his eyes were on the Bishop. He was about a foot taller than the Bishop and I could see his hands folded as though in prayer. They were startlingly white.
I never thought the color of your skin was something to be shammed of or hidden, but he seemed to want to not attract attention to himself and I decided it was better not to stare. The only problem was... the man beside him seemed to be the man I was looking for. I felt for the sliver crucifix around my neck. The silver felt cool and comforting in my hand. After a moment, I hid the necklace back under my black shirt. I took a deep breath and walked over, smiled at them and spoke.
"Bishop Manuel Aringarosa?" I asked gently.
The man smiled, "Ah, you must be Arene." He took my hand in his and shook it gently. "Look at you, have long has it been? 14... 15 years? Look at you, you look just like your mother, heaven rest her soul. Same golden hair, same blue eyes... and you've gotten so tall..."
My brow furrowed, "I don't believe we've ever met before sir."
"Oh, you were only a newborn. I was there at your Baptism, your father invited me."
"That must have been before he left Opus Dei." I thought to myself.
"Well, I guess I wouldn't remember that." I said to him.
"Of course you wouldn't." He said with a smile... which then fell to a frown, "My dear child, I was horrified to hear your mother had passed on. She was a good woman with a kind heart."
I felt the tears in my eyes again and wished my mother was there to hold me again. The Bishop placed a soft hand on my shoulder and I looked up at him.
"Don't cry, child. She is with God in heaven now." He crossed himself. "You will be most welcome in Opus Dei, I can assure you." He looked at my bag, "Is that all your brought with you?"
I nodded, unable to speak.
"I see." He said, "Well, follow me, our ride is waiting."
I didn't want to go with him. I wanted to get back on the plane and go home... but I knew that was impossible. I followed closely behind the bishop, beside the tall man, whom he had not introduced yet. The man didn't even look at me, but stayed next to the Bishop. I wanted to say 'hello' , but it caught in my throat.
We arrived outside and there was a long black... I wouldn't call it a limo, but a transport waiting for us. The Bishop entered first, followed by that tall man and then myself. As the car left, I sat quietly looking out the window, next to the tall man. The Bishop sat across from us.
There was a faint movement of cloth and I looked to see the man beside me had taken off his hood. I looked at him in both shock and awe, though my face remained motionless.
The man was albino, his face and skin as white as a new moon. His eyes were a deep pinkish-red, like blood pooling in small ponds. His hair was a very white white blonde... if even that and scar remained on his cheek. In all honesty... he was very attractive. He was not the kind of man I would usually find attractive, but something inside was drawn to him. Be it not in love or lust... but in kindness.
Aringarosa cleared his throat, "Forgive me for being so careless, Arene, I would like you to meet Silas. He is a member of Opus Dei and a companion of mine for a long time."
I smiled and held out my hand, "Nice to meet you."
He didn't touch my hand but nodded curtly in return.
I smiled and turned to looking out the window, my tears dripped silently onto my shirt...
Opus Dei's headquarters was huge. Bigger than I had ever dreamed. The Bishop told me he would have to leave Silas and I here and that I would need to enter from another side. Men and Women had separate entrances. The Bishop wished me well and left. I was about to ask Silas where to go, but he was gone.
I sighed and walked in the other way. It was deadpan quiet. Almost pure silence filled the room. Every woman in the room was dressed as a nun and looked up as I entered. I gulped, feeling a dire feeling to go home inside as every pair of eyes starred at me as though I were a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter.
"Dear God, what place have I come too?" I whispered inside.
I gave my name to a woman at a small desk and she nodded.
"Your room is on the fifth floor." She said, "follow me."
I followed her up five flights of stairs and we headed to my room. I couldn't help bu notice that she was limping.
"Are you alright?" I asked gently.
The nun nodded, "Of course I am, why?"
"You're limping." I pointed out, "Are you hurt? Do you need-"
"It is penance for my sins." She cut me off rather fast, "It is a part of the way."
I didn't say another word, guessing that I had some how offended her. She lead me down another hall and showed me to a barely furnished room. She opened the door and ushered me in quickly.
"The Dining hall is on the fourth floor, and I will send someone up to give you new clothes. Bishop Aringarosa has asked to speak with you in the morning in the library on the 15th floor at 10:00 a.m. sharp. Do not be late."
Then, she felt as though nothing had happened. I placed my bag on the ground and looked around. There was a crucifix on the wall, but that was it. No bed, no dresser, nothing.
I sighed, "Thanks a lot, dad."
All they had to wear were these itchy brown robes that looked like something out of an old Monty Python movie. I took off my shirt and threw one over my jeans to find that it wasn't too itchy on the inside, but, I reminded myself, it was better than looking like a nun.
I didn't eat dinner that night or go to mass as I heard all the other women go, I was too wrapped up in thinking about my mom. I missed her so much. I heard the soft chants from the men on the upper floors, and smelled incense from the church above. I reached into my bag and pulled out the music box. Closing my door and moving over to a small corner of the room, I placed the box down on the floor, turned the crank and listened to it play. I sang along softly, letting the sounds of the music wash over me. It reminded me of when I was a child... when I would wake up from a nightmare and go to my mom's room. She would let me snuggle with her until I fell asleep, then, she would take me back to my own room.
Suddenly, as the music stopped, I heard what sounded like a striking sound and gasp of pain! It pulled me back to the here and now as I shoved the music box into my pocket of the robe. I ran over to the wall and pressed my ear to it. It was cut off, but on the same floor as the men's side. I could hear gasping and harsh intakes of breath.
"Castigo corpus meum." I heard a raspy voice whisper. I had never taken Latin once in my life, but I had heard my mother practicing it once or twice and knew enough to know the gist of what he was saying.
"I discipline...?" I whispered in confusion, unable to make out the rest... before hearing the crack of a whip and holding back a gasp.
"Someone's being beaten." I whispered in shock. Thought I knew women were not allowed on the other side, I let my robe slack a bit and pulled my hair back. I ran down to the first floor and entered through the men's side with no complications. I ran up to the same floor and down to the door where the lashing could still be heard. I looked around, all the other doors were open and unoccupied. I know that this could mean serious trouble for me, but I opened the door slowly and let my eyes fall upon a horrible sight.
There lay Silas, stripped naked to his undergarments, a whip in his own hand, blood pooling from several gashes on his back.
"Oh my God." I whispered in fright, "He beat himself!" I cried and ran into the room, closing the door behind me. I ran over to him and knelt beside him, looking at the wounds. Blood trailed down into the cracks of the floor and I began to panic. I knew I had to get him help, but something inside told me no one in this place would understand my fright. I reached over to move him...
That was when I saw the Cilice.
It cut into his leg and tore mercilessly at his skin. The barbed chain sank comfortably into his flesh and did not seem to want to come out. I had heard of men and women in Opus Dei wearing the Cilice, but never so much that it cut into their skin! Both of his legs bore the mark of the device and the skin looked raw... even close to infection. I shuddered as the blood continued to drip. I didn't know what to do... but this man needed help!
"What kind of lesson has this man been taught?" I whispered in fright. "What kind of God would want this?"
I reached over to his leg. Carefully, I unbuckled the cilice and pulled it out of his skin. His body shivered in pain and he moved a bit. I stopped, afraid he might awaken... but he still lay unconscious.
I dropped the device on the floor beside us and went to lift his arm up around my shoulder, hoping to move him from the floor and over to the bed. At least there I could look at his wounds carefully. I reached over to try to move him...
When a strong hand grasped my wrist!
I held back my scream as Silas turned his head to meet my gaze. In a flash of fire-filled furry, Silas rose to his feet, my wrist in hand and ripped off the hood of my robe! Anger and rage shown deeply in his eyes.
"Why are you here?" He snarled angrily, his hand tightened around my wrist. His other hand grabbed a handful of my clothing, just below the throat. His eyes bore into mine as though he were a mighty bird of prey staring angrily at his dinner.
"I..." I began to cry, in fear, trying to pull away, but his grip got tighter and tighter. "I heard you beating yourself... I was scared... I thought you might need-"
"Do you know the penalty for coming here?" His voice louder, his grip harsher. His eyes narrowed on the Cilice on the ground and his rage grew. Even more so, his eyes glowed with fire as he saw the Cilice on the ground.
"Please let me go..." I cried, "I didn't-"
"DO YOU!" He roared. I coward and began to cry, sobbing almost. I tried to shove him back.
"Please... I'm so sorry, I thought you were hurt... I can't stand to see people hurt, Please let me go... I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry papa..."
His voice softened greatly and he let go of my wrist. The fire in his eyes seemed to die as he let me go. I fell to the ground as Silas reached over and picked up his brown robe, putting it back on. He tied to cord in front and once again, re-clasping the Cilice to his leg, hissing in pain. Then he turned to me, curled in a ball on the floor
"Why did you call me papa?" He asked.
I stopped crying and opened my eyes and looked up at him. "I called you Papa?" My voice shaking, I knew then somehow my mind had gone back to when I was a child... when my father would scream at me, "I... I'm sorry... I should-"
Silas stood over me, "You invaded my room and you disturb me in penance, You Will tell me what happened!"
I gulped and nodded, "My... My father used to hit me... I would cry till-"
"Your father hit you?" He asked, the rage in his eyes now gone and he knelt down beside me.
I nodded, "Till he left one day." I rolled up the sleeves on my left arm to show the remains of all the marks he had left. Several scars.
Silas said nothing, but he stood up and pulled out a small handkerchief from his drawer. It was only then I noticed the men received minimum furnishings. He handed it to me.
"I'm sorry." He said as he watched me take it, crying into it, "I did not know your father beat you. But it gives you no right to come in and interrupt me."
"Why?" I asked in tears.
"Why do you beat yourself?" I asked in shock, "what kind of God wants a man beaten? I was told God is loving and Jesus gave a message of love! Why would you beat yourself? God wouldn't want that!"
Silas and I stared at each other, my eyes tear stained, his hard as diamonds.
Sisal's voice was soft as he spoke next, "I must repent for my sins." He reached for the band of the Cilice and I grabbed his arm,
"Please don't!" I cried, "Don't hurt yourself! This isn't right!"
He struggled and pulled me off him, shoving me back against the wall, "I must! You do not understand what I have done!"
I rose and grabbed his arm with my hands again, "I won't let you! God wouldn't want you to hurt yourself!"
Silas didn't move as he looked at my tear stained face. His eyes linked with mine. I knew then what I felt for him. Not love, not lust, not passion... but respect and hope. Hope that I might be able to... I don't know. I cared about him... like an old friend... or a sister...
Silas let go of my hands and looked at me, "The Cilice is a part of "The Way." I must repent for my sins as should you. Opus Dei gave me the light back in my life. If you can not follow that light, you should not be a part of Opus Dei."
I sighed and looked at the handkerchief.
"I just want to go home." I said, "I'll find my own lodgings but-"
"Do you have any money?" He asked.
I looked up and nodded, "I can get a little. I have my account number from back home-."
He nodded and cut me off, "Take that and fly back home. Those who do not want be a part of Opus Dei should not be in it's sanctuary. You don't belong here. Leave."
He looked at me, as though waiting for me to leave, but I did not. I started at him. Suddenly, I smiled, realizing something probably only I would understand.
That was his way of saying "Thank You."
I walked over to him and touched his hand, "Thank you."
His eyes narrowed, "For what?"
I shook my head and smiled. I doubt he would admit, "Nothing..." Suddenly, another thought dawned on me, "What about Aringarosa? He will think you helped me! I'm suppose to met him tomorrow."
"I am not helping you." He said definitely, " If you wish me to help you, I would say you should stay and follow the way. But If you wish to go then go. The meeting tomorrow was to discuss you entering Opus Dei. You are not an important asset, he will not care."
I smiled and nodded, "Thank you Silas." I moved to go, but stopped.
"I wish there was something I could do for you. To repay for you kindness." I told him.
"I wish for nothing." He said and turned his back to me, but I did not leave. Slowly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the music box.
"Here." I offered it to him. He pushed it back.
"I can not accept your music box." He said.
"Then please accept this." I said and turned the small crank till it was at the beginning. I listened to the music for a moment and began to sing softly. Only loud enough so that he and I could hear it.
"How I remember sleepless nights
when we would read by candlelight,
and on the windowpane outside
a new world made of snow;
a million feathers falling down,
a million stars that touch the ground,
so many secrets to be found
amid the falling snow.
Maybe I am falling down.
Tell me should I touch the ground?
Maybe I won't make a sound
in the darkness all around.
The silence of a winter's night
brings memories I hold inside;
remembering a blue moonlight
upon the fallen snow.
Maybe I am falling down.
Tell me should I touch the ground?
Maybe I won't make a sound
in the darkness all around.
I close my window to the night.
I leave the sky her tears of white.
And all is lit by candlelight
amid the falling snow.
And all is lit by candlelight
amid the falling snow."
Silas said nothing but nodded and turned back to the Crucifix on the wall. I wished so badly for him to say something... anything, but I accepted that scilence and left his room. I quickly returning to my room, packed my things and left Opus Dei that night. I withdrew the money I had and left on the next flight out of New York. I got home around five in the morning and found a card on the front step.
"Welcome Home again."
B. O. Z.
As strange as it was, in the coming years, I never found out who sent that card.
As Silas suspected, No one ever called me or asked about me and I never heard from Aringarosa again. I stayed at my house and continued with school, working a part time job on the side so I could get enough money for food.
I tried to write to Silas every know and then, but my letters never got to him... or they were sent back. Even as the years went by, I never heard from him. I said a prayer for him every night, hoping to hear from him... but I never did. Year after year... I never heard from him.
But I kept him in my heart still... Every now and then however, I still look at that old music box... and remember...
"Silas..." I whispered, "My brother... I hope you're okay..."