The memorial service for her grandmother had been lovely; while not an overly religious woman, she’d arranged, while on her deathbed, to have a Priest come and speak at her gravesite. Most of the town had turned out, all swathed in black, creating a cloud of darkness that swarmed fully over the snow-covered graveyard. Sara had come from work, her small doctor’s office where she acted as the only nurse.
Not that there was really a need for more than one nurse, seeing as there was only one doctor. The town of Mossy Grove was a small one, a former mining town that had stripped the land of silver and copper nearly a century ago before leaving for bigger and better places. But Sara’s family had remained in Mossy Grove, living in the old family manor that her great-great-grandfather had built on the land he’d paid for with silver nuggets. What had once been a large, prosperous family was now down to Sara and a few distant cousins.
Brushing her red locks off of her black coat, Sara’s green eyes stared at the mahogany being lowered slowly into the ground. The priest was saying words, though Sara wasn’t paying attention to them. Her grandmother had been a kind woman, practically the center of Sara’s life since her mother and father had died when she was a young child. The aged woman had homeschooled her, teaching her how to manage the family finances and stocks while her health slowly declined. She’d even payed for Sara’s schooling when she wanted to become a nurse, and done so with a smile.
Sara owed her everything. And now she was gone.
She’d shed her tears when her grandmother had declared she was dying, citing the reports from her doctors that said the cancer had spread to her lungs. Sara had moved from her apartment above the doctor’s practice and back into the manor to try and tend to her needs. She’d steadfastly refused for the majority of the time Sara had tried to care for her, only allowing her to trade out her bags of Morphine, which allowed her pain to become bearable.
Sara blinked as she heard a low murmur come from the crowd, the sounds of shuffling snow and whispers coming from the dispersing crowd. Looking around, Sara would have blushed if her face wasn’t already flushed from the cold; she hadn’t even realized that the priest had finished his prayer. Clenching her hands, Sara strode over to where the elderly priest was standing, his white robes with red trim clashing with the stark brightness of the snow.
“Father,” Sara greeted, catching his attention. He turned to regard her for a moment before breaking into a smile that crinkled his wrinkly face.
“Sara, my child, I am so terribly sorry for your loss,” Father Dee said, folding his knobby hands over each other in front of him, “I was told you were with her in her final hours.”
“I was,” Sara replied. “I just wanted to thank you for doing the service, despite her lack of faith.”
“Lack of faith?” The priest's willowy voice said, humor heavy in his voice. “My dear, I would dare say she was one of the most devout people in this town, possibly outstripping me in her love for the Lord.”
That struck Sara as odd. “Father, I’m sorry, but I grew up with her and, while I’m not trying to argue with you, I never saw my grandmother go to church before. Why would you think she was so pious?”
The Priest smiled once again, reaching out with a gnarled hand to grip her shoulder, squeezing lightly as if to comfort her. “How about this: go home and do what must be done with the family holdings until tonight. I’ll come around seven, and tell you how I knew your grandmother, and how I know she was a warrior of God.”
Sara merely studied the elderly man for a moment before slowly nodding. “Okay, I suppose I can do that. Would you like me to prepare dinner? I know we have some chicken that I suppose I could bake…”
“Anything would be lovely,” Father Dee said, nodding at her as he slowly made his way around her. “I’ll see you tonight Sara, be safe on your travels.”
Sara looked at his retreating back with a raised eyebrow. Wonder what he meant by that?
The rest of Sara’s day was spent puttering around the manor, moving from room to room dusting and arranging the various odds and ends that her grandmother had gathered in her life. She set up the dining room, a windowless room with a chandelier decorated with five stuffed ravens and an octagonal orange table, for her dinner date with Father Dee. She brought out the good china, polished the silver and put the chicken in the oven an hour and a half before the good father was due to arrive.
Wiping away sheen of sweat she hadn’t realized she’d built up, Sara took the time to clean herself up before changing into a slightly conservative dress done in deep blues and purples. Slipping on her numerous rings and trinkets that she’d been gifted over the years from her grandmother, Sara fought back the tears that she could no longer shed for the poor woman. She was gone, for good, and Sara would never see her again.
She would just have to live with that.
Her musings were cut short when she heard the polite rapping of knuckles on the heavy set front door; the thick wood combined with the tile floors allowed the knock to be heard from every corner of the house, echoing about like a bat trying to escape a belfry. Sara rushed to the front of the house, smoothening out her dress as she reached the front door, opening it wide with a smile.
A smile which quickly fell when she found two young men, dressed as if they’d been traveling for quite some time if the dirt and grime on their jackets and boots were any indication. Between them the good father stood, smiling benevolently with a twinkle in his eye, hands folded behind his back.
“Hello Father,” Sara said, her voice strained. “I was unaware you would be bringing guests.”
“As was I, until they turned up at the Cathedral with good tidings,” Father Dee replied, clapping one of the young men, a dirty blonde that was perhaps in his mid-twenties. The man winced from the sudden movement, his hand drifting to his side.
This didn’t go unnoticed by Sara.
“Well,” she said, moving out of the doorway. “If you’ve brought them to me than the least I can do is offer them a meal and a chance to rest before sending them on their way.”
“It would be the Christian thing to do,” the other stranger, the older man grunted. His stringy black hair hung in a curtain around his face, which held a multitude of scars, long thin lines that had grown pale as they healed.
The trio walked into the house, tracking mud much to Sara’s disgust, before making their way to the dining room. Sara closed the door before locking it; she didn’t like surprises, and the fact the Father Dee showed up with two such things set her on edge. Slowly exhaling, she bit back the bitter words that she wanted to spout. Her grandmother had told her that any and all who needed refuge for a night were welcome in the manor, so long as they swore to do no harm to anything while they were present. Her grandmother might have been a tad strange, but Sara still respected her rules.