Call Me Little Sunshine

You will never ever walk alone.

It was a dreary night. The dark sky was occasionally illuminated by flashes of lightning, revealing the bulbous forms of the storm clouds drifting over the city. The rain was coming down in sheets so thick, one could barely see past their own out-stretched hand. The thunder was vibrating her very bones.

Usually, she loved weather like this.

But, on a night like this, it just felt as though now even the weather were having a go at her.

Staring dejectedly out at the dark street, she sat solemnly on the curb. Her forearms resting on her bent knees, her hands dangling limply over them. Nothing seemed to go her way. Not the way she wanted, nor a way that would ever be said to benefit her. Her job had let her go the week prior. And tonight her lover had told her he was leaving her for her best friend.

The feeling of being alone was becoming truly tiresome. This hadn’t been the first time she had been let down in life. But she vowed it would be the last. Some how.

She began to wonder if she had sat out on the curb long enough for the other patrons of the Crooked Crow to forget about the scene her lover had caused to go back in and have a drink.

Did she really care if she had not?

She should. She had also just celebrated a full year of being sober, after years of heavy drinking had gotten her in quite a lot of trouble at an old job.

But, if there was no one here that knew, would it even matter? Would anyone even care if she fell off the wagon?

Soaked to the bone and lost in her own laments, she did not hear the clack of approaching footsteps. They strode confidently past her, paused, then reversed back towards her.

It took a few moments for her to realize that the rain was no longer pattering against her head. She blinked a few times, making certain her eyes were not playing tricks on her and that it was indeed still raining. She turned.

A tall man stood behind her, close enough so the edge of his bubble umbrella extended over her, shielding her from the rain. His shoes were immaculate Italian leather dress shoes with a fashionably pointed toe; utterly absurd to be wearing in this weather. His trousers a simple black denim, if a bit tattered looking. He wore a fitted jacket of a similar material over a vest of black leather with gold and burgundy metal clasps. The ruffs of the ends of his black linen sleeves poked out from the end of his jacket cuffs, the shirt’s high collar contrasting nicely with the metallic turquoise scarf knotted expertly at his throat. A black leather gloved-hand raked back through his disheveled greying-dark hair, putting the rogue strands that had dipped down over his forehead back into place.

His gaze was heavy upon her. She felt a knot forming in the pit of her stomach. She recognized him instantly. Even without the striking face paint he wore for public appearances. She had been to one of his performances before, it had taken her breath away, well and truly. Never had she imagined to see him out on the town, let alone to be this close to him.

He cocked his head as he gazed down at her, the light reflecting strangely in his one white eye.

“It seems a strange time to be sunbathing, does it not, sorella?” he said, his voice lighter than she expected. She sat, rooted to the spot, staring back up over her shoulder at him mutely. His eyebrows waggled in invitation for her to speak. And yet, she still could not find her voice. Bouncing on the balls of his feet – those immaculate Italian leather dress shoes of his making a squelching, squeaking of a sound – he cleared his throat. “Well, this has become immensely awkward; I beg your forgiveness on intruding into your peaceful evening and bid you a fond farewell.”

He tipped his umbrella to her in a mock bow and pivoted on his heel to go back the way he had originally been heading. A light hum escaping his lips.

Her stomach gave a lurch, as she watched him retreating into the rain. She could practically hear her best friend and roommate – if she were not leaving for France with her ex-lover the next morning – berating her for having shunned him. Her stomach knotted further, and not in the pleasant manner it had earlier.

“Wait, Your Excellency!” she called, before she could think.

He paused; one foot raised for seemingly dramatic effect. Pivoting on the ball of one foot and the heel of the other, his legs crossing, he turned back to face her. He inclined his head, brows arched, waiting for her to speak further.

“I, um, apologize for my rudeness, Your Excellency,” she said hastily, moving from her seated position on the cobbled curb to a kneeling position as he drew closer to her. Before she could stop herself, she was pouring her heart out to the newly elevated Cardinal. He held his gloved hand out to her as she spoke. This time, without hesitating, she did not miss his invitation.

She reached up and took the proffered hand, the leather of his gloves soft and warm against her chilled, wet skin. He helped her up and then gave her arm a gentle tug so she would be squarely beneath his bubble umbrella with him. She could feel the warmth radiating from him, she couldn’t help but shiver.

Without interrupting her, he held out his opposite arm – the one not holding the bubble umbrella – to her. Draped across it was a thick, old-fashioned-yet-timeless, wool cloak. He offered it to her.

Swirling the black cloak around her shoulders, she was instantly enveloped in warmth, as well as the warm scent of his cologne. Walking down the cobbled street, arm-in-arm, intimately tucked beneath his umbrella, she could not help but feel they looked a proper Victorian couple.

“I… I do apologize, Your Excellency,” she finally said, “I have blathered on and on all this time… Why did you stop for me?”

The hint of a smile crept across the former-Cardinal’s face. “We have a place for you, sorella, within my ministry. A place that would never be taken from you. A place that would forever be your own. A place where you would always be welcome, wanted, and appreciated.” There was a further hint to that smile. “It is yours, if you wish it.” She found herself nodding vigorously. She had no idea what work within his ministry entailed, but she knew if it meant being able to be closer to him, she would take it. The smile flashed in full force now across his face as he said: “And please, you may call me Copia, sorella.”

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