The Summer I Died
Author: Richard Anthony

Chapter 12
Sibling Rivalry

Brother Delgado had just finished Vespers and heading back to his cell in the monastery when he ran into his actual twin sister in the hallway. He smiled as he saw her approaching. As usual, her head bowed in thoughts and her lips were moving as if she were having an argument with herself.
“Ah, Sister Maria and what a glorious night it is for me to have a chance meeting with you in this beloved hallway,” he said.
Sister Maria stopped in her tracks and looked up at the person speaking to her.
“You!” she exclaimed.
“Yes, it is me!” he replied.
Sister Maria’s eyes narrowed as she looked at her twin in front of her. “I should have known,” she confessed. “Why was I so stupid or blind? It could only have come from you!”
The other priests or nuns that were walking the hallway steered clear of the two twins.
“And what am I being accused of this time, Sister?” he asked.
“Don’t you Sister me Brother,” she spat back at him.
“But under these garments aren’t we all just brothers and sisters in our faith?” he asked.
“Oh, don’t you get all pious and holier than thou with me Brother Delgado,” she accused him.
“Alas, Sister Maria, you have me at quite a disadvantage.”
Maria looked up and down the hallway and noticed that the traffic was getting a little heavier. She stepped up to her brother and quietly said, “Follow me to my classroom, my dear brother.” She then quickly turned and headed down the hallway.
She approached a door, took out a set of keys from her robe, put them in and turned the handle. The door swung open and Sister Maria went quickly inside followed by Brother Delgado who closed the door behind him. The only other remaining place for him to sit was in one of the schoolroom desks.
“Are you going to beat me with a ruler like old Sister Agnes did when we were kids if I give you a wrong answer?” he asked.
“Oh, what have you done, brother?” she questioned him.
“Maria, you have to tell me what you are talking about so I can answer whatever it is you think I’ve done,” he advised her.
The Sister crossed herself, placed her hands on top of the desk and looked over at Brother Delgado. “This expedition to the Old World you are behind it, right?” she asked.
“Now how…”
“Oh, don’t you deny it Ricardo, I am your twin you remember and I do remember what all your childhood fantasies were when we were growing up,” she stated.
Brother Delgado sat back against the bench’s backrest and sighed. “This was supposed to be a big secret until the final votes were cast by the King and Queen to undertake the expedition,” he told her.
“It may have started out that way but I think you know that a secret like this doesn’t take too long to become common knowledge,” she began, “Especially when you’re talking about an expedition of this size and scope.”
“Nevertheless, it was supposed to be kept quiet,” he informed her.
“You talk to me of keeping things quiet, when there is so much at stake?” she asked incredulously.
“It is precisely because there is so much at stake that we needed to keep this expedition as quiet as possible until it is a done deal,” he stated.
“Oh, Ricardo, you still seem to live in that fantasy world you created when you were younger and never wanted to leave.”
“It is not the same, Sister,” he stated.
“I wish I could believe you, brother,” she replied.
“But you can,” he announced. “All you have to do is open your eyes and see me as everyone else in my order does, a competent Brother.”
“Si, you have made a name for yourself ever since you have taken your vows, Brother Delgado,” she said. “Isn’t it a fact that your reputation stems more from your having gone and sought out danger on every exploration that the Empire has produced than it does from piety?”
“You don’t have to answer that but tell me, did you take your vows because you were called or did you take those vows because you wanted to please our dying Mother?”
“Mama was so proud of you for seeking out the sisterhood, Maria,” he said. “All she ever did at the dinner table every night was talk about how her little girl was becoming a teacher and a nun. Of course, that was when she was still able to eat with the rest of the family. You were always the apple of her eye, Maria.”
“God rest her soul,” Sister Maria said. “But you still did not answer my question, Ricardo.”
“And how do you wish me to answer it beloved sister?” he asked.
“The truth always works, dear brother,” she informed him.
“Fine, at first, I must admit, I wanted to please our dying mother,” he confessed. “But that was only at first. Back in those earlier days, I had none or little direction. I floundered from this to that and back again. I was lost.”
“Si, I remember,” she said.
“Then mama passed away and it was as if a light came on,” he stated. “I could finally see to the end of the tunnel. Before the burial, I spent many hours in reflection and worried my rosary until the beads almost fell off.”
“Those were all tough days on us Ricardo,” she confessed.
“Si, but during those days I grew spiritually,” he added. “My sadness was replaced by a peace that I couldn’t understand until I went to my confessor. He told me that it was God touching and healing me in my time of need. It was at that moment, I knew that Mama and I were both in God’s hands.”
A tear slowly worked its way down Sister Maria’s cheek.
“Then I’m sorry for ever doubting you, Brother,” she said. “But then that brings up another fear I have Ricardo.”
“I don’t understand, fear you say?” he asked.
“Si,” she simply stated. “I was concerned when I heard about this foolhardy expedition. Now that I know you are going to be on it, I fear for your safety.”
“I never said I was going,” he said.
“Oh, don’t be stupid,” she flatly stated. “Of course you are going on it. Wasn’t it enough that our Papa lost his dear heart’s love and now you compound it with throwing your life away on this ill-conceived voyage?”
“God leads in mysterious ways, Sister,” he advised her.
“Oh, please, here we go again,” she said exasperated.
Brother Delgado chuckled as he stood.
“Just to ease your mind, sister, I did not volunteer, but was ordered by the Black Pope to be part of this historic undertaking,” he informed her.
Sister Maria stood as well.
“The Black Pope?” she asked. “And he wanted you personally on this mission?”
“Si,” he replied.
“Has every one at the Vatican gone crazy?” she asked. “Don’t answer that. I can’t believe I even said that.”
“I didn’t even know about it until a few months ago,” he said.
“A few months ago?” she asked.
“It was just recently that the little ‘secret’ was allowed to be ‘leaked’,” he informed her.
Sister Maria reached up and stroked her brother’s cheek with the back of her hand.
“And whose hand was on the spigot when this mysterious ‘leak’ happened?” she asked.
“Huh?” he asked feigning ignorance.
Out of nowhere, Sister Maria hit Brother Delgado on his side with a ruler.
“Ow, what was that for?” he asked.
“Lying dear Brother,” she stated. “I can always tell a liar by his actions.”

 

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