El rolled over, looking at the bedside clock wearily. She wasn’t surprised she’d been asleep scarcely an hour. She never seemed to sleep very well in Johnny’s lumpy rectory bed. While he might have committed to a life of deprivation, she certainly hadn’t.
She arose, trying not to wake him. Fumbling in her bag, she located the crumpled pack of Mayfair’s and her matches. She was just lighting up when he spoke.
“El, how many times have I asked you not to smoke in here? I’ve meetings with the bishopric this week and it wouldn’t do to have my home smelling of cigarettes.”
With a derisive snort, she rounded on him, “John Francis Xavier McKenzie! We’ve been having it off like crazed bunnies every Friday night for a year and you take affront at a bit of smoke?! Buy a sodding can of Oust and be done with it!”
Sighing deeply, he sat up, “Eleanor, must you use such coarse language? You know how unaccountably….fond I am of you. Though loneliness has led me to compromise my vows, I am, still and all, a priest. I must conform to the tenets of my faith, as best I can, or lose all I am. You must understand that by now.” His expression bespoke unassailable sadness and he couldn’t meet her gaze.
“You’re “unaccountably fond” of me, is it? I wasn’t aware rogering a woman so roundly she walks odd the next day was characterized so. I’m ever so pleased you are “unaccountably fond” of me.” Her contempt hung palpable in the air.
His voice broke as he looked up, “Eleanor…El…we can’t go on like this. My foolishness places us both in peril of eternal damnation. We must make a clean break before the burden of our sins grows too great to ever undo.”
It was her turn to tear up then. “Johnny…you know you’re the only person in this world shows me any attention…any…love. What shall I do? Back to watching my mates go off to their suburban palaces while I die a little more inside each day? And you? Back to nights of darning socks and writing sermons no one even listens to? I can’t…don’t ask me…”
“El, it’s what we must do….all we CAN do. I shall miss our time together but it simply must end…here…now…tonight.”
Without another word, she dressed and walked through the silent church to the side door. “When you see me next, Johnny, remember it was your doing…not mine.” He watched as she vanished into the darkness, nearly calling her back but unable to do so.
Rising from the graveside, Father McKenzie closed his prayer book. El hadn’t been exaggerating her lack of support. Not a single mourner had appeared for the service. Though the investigators stated all evidence indicated Ms. Eleanor Rigby had accidentally drowned that night, he returned to the rectory and sat alone with the sure and certain knowledge, had his soul not been forever damned before, it most definitely was now.
This story was written for the weekly Friday Night Write flash fiction challenge with the Beatle's song, Eleanor Rigby as the motivation.