“And the fresh pile of manure by the wayside,” Terrance quipped. He poked his head out the carriage, and winked at a man with a frown that extended to the ground. “Jolly good work, Mr. Hague. Mud pies again, is it?” He sneered, and leaned back inside. “Too bad he’s only got one eye; no way to tell if he’s winking back. I guess that’s the price you pay for erecting a mansion among dung hovels. When you’re done breathing in that fine excrement, Lizzie, perhaps you’ll wash it down with raw sewage from the neighboring stream. Ooh…” he tried shaking it off. “I’m growing boils just thinking about it.”
“I will not let you ruin this moment.” The nun kept her eyes shut.
Terrance gazed out the window. “Oh yes, and who can forget the scent of Old Man Wiggin’s musty underwear hanging in the breeze? Hey Wiggins, I didn’t realize you wore underwear. You can have mine as well.” He poked his scarred buttocks out the side. “And while you’re at it, perhaps you can check your work.”
Wiggins dropped the pitchfork and ran into the barn. He grabbed his rifle, and scurried down the hill.
“Terrance, are you mad? Stop cursing the neighbors or they’ll blow off your other cheek,” said Lizzie.
The rogue pulled up his pants. “Not a bad idea, actually. Might even them out,” he replied.
Gunfire erupted in the distance.
“Blast, I think I’ve done it again.” Terrance covered his mouth.
“Are you drunk? You’re going to get us killed!” the nun exclaimed.
“Not to worry,” he grinned. “His gun is never fully loaded—just ask anyone at the brothel. Of course, that wouldn’t happen if he wasn’t doing so much handiwork on neighbors’ lawns,” he raised his voice.
“Oh dear.” Elizabeth buried her face in her hands. “Is this really how it all ends?”
“Speaking of loaded, I’m glad you chose father’s premiere coach.” He opened the compartment next to him, and pulled out two bottles of wine.
“Where did you get that? Father told you-”
“Oh, come off it, Lizzie. I’m celebrating the Lord’s day just as you do—with the blood of Christ.” Terrance popped the cork and took a swig.
“What do you mean, ‘the blood of Christ?’” Sister Elizabeth asked.
“This is the very same wine you serve at mass.” Terrance licked his chops. “Perhaps I’ll tag along after all.”
Lizzie glared. “You didn’t.”
“Afraid I did.” Terrance took another mouthful. “Here, you can have my spare.” He held out the other bottle. “Come on, Lizzie. It’s not stolen. The old goat gave it to me—practically left it in his will.”
“It wasn’t his to give; it’s the property of the church. Is nothing sacred to you?”
Suddenly the bottle exploded, dousing the nun with purple vintage.
Terrance cracked open the carriage door. “Wiggins, you sure are feisty this morning.”
In the distance, the old man slowed down, gasping for air.
“You’ll have to excuse my sister, she hasn’t had sex in years.” He took a sip. “I hear she’s planning to try on some new dresses this evening. Perhaps you’ll swing by and lend a hand? I hear you’re quite good at that sort of thing.”
Wiggins shook it off, and broke into a sprint.
Elizabeth yanked Terrance back into the carriage. “Damn you, Terrance. Enough!”
“A cursing nun—just how I like them!” He fell back in his seat.
“You’re clever, Terrance, I’ll give you that.” She angled her head. “But then again, so am I.” She took the wimple from her head, and dried herself off, letting her blonde tangles fall to her shoulders. “Indeed you know me well. In the past, the only way to change my mind was to dirty my dress. Did you really think I would fall for it this time?” She patted the bag next to her.
“One way or another I knew you’d find a way to stain my clothes, so I packed an extra habit. So enough of these shenanigans; nothing’s going to get you out of Sunday mass. Apologize to Mr. Wiggins, young man, because you’re headed straight to church, and afterwards, the confessional.”
“If you knew what happened last time, you wouldn’t want me anywhere near the confessional,” Terrance mumbled.
She handed him a bible. “Read! And give me that bottle.”
Terrance polished it off, and tossed it over.
“The entire bottle?” Sister Elizabeth gasped.
“Your gesture is appreciated, young sister, but I’ve my own copy.” He handed the bible back, and plucked a trim volume from his coat pocket.
“Rather small to be a bible.” She crossed her arms.
“It’s the New Testament only,” said Terrance.
“Well wonders never cease.”
“As I tried telling you before,” he opened the book, “the old reverend gave me a few items before he died.” He scanned over the page and giggled. “Of course, I could be lying.”
Lizzie bit her tongue. She could not believe he was reading the word, and wanted to hear the truth from his own lips.
But all she heard were giggles.
“Read it aloud.” She kept her words short and concise.
“It’s just heating up.” Terrance waved her off, and thumbed to the end. He smacked his leg and cackled. “That little whore!”
Elizabeth was dumbfounded. “The word of God is not a joke!”
“No, but you are.” He continued reading.
“Even if you are the devil himself, I will drag you in front of the altar, Terrance. Now read!”
The cheer melted from Terrance’s face. “As you wish.” He combed his dark locks aside.
“If love is not a sin,” he read aloud, “how did either of us do any wrong? God made us this way, including the spark between us. The only sin that burdens this heart is that we haven’t loved each other more often.”
Terrance turned the page. “Your stare burns through me; I am helpless, spellbound. As the tides of time pound the shore, your smile lingers. Your innocence…your sincerity…only ensures that it will remain there ever more. In giving this heart and soul to God, he has rewarded me with you. I long to feel you inside me again, for without you, I am empty as the shore.”
“What is that?” Elizabeth cut in. “That’s no bible.”
“Shhh…you’re ruining it, Lizzie. This is the best part,” said Terrance. “Take me with you, and I will give myself to you as I do the lord. All you need to do is ask, my sweet Riley.”
Lizzie’s face turned bright right red.
Suddenly a bullet grazed the book. “Bugger.” Terrance examined the side. “At least Wiggins didn’t shoot off the juicy parts.”
“You rotten pig!” The nun pounced on him, knocking him off the seat. “Give me back my journal!” She pawed at the black book.
“Never.” Terrance held fast.
“I was young and foolish,” said Elizabeth.
“But that entry is only a week old.”
“Give it to me.” She pressed him against the door.
“No…mine.” Terrance tugged back.
As Lizzie pried the diary from his finger, the carriage door swung open. Terrance tumbled out, rolling off the bridge, and into the stream below.
“Terrance!” Lizzie screamed, holding her secret dear. “Amazing what that clown will do to get out of church. Driver, stop!” she called.