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Thunder roared outside as lightning flashed through the stained glass windows. Watery tattoos ran down stonewalls of the cathedral. The only sources of light were the brief lightning outside and the small candles at the offerings.
Maria Blackwell sat in the bench at the back of the church. She’s an old lady, maybe around the age of sixty or seventy. She sat there motionlessly as the thunder and lightning rolled around outside. Just as the darkness, she was equally dark and collected.
She had no reason to be sitting in the back, but she sit there everyday apparently. I see her every week, when I go to weekly mass, the same exact spot. Most of the people know her as the “creepy woman just sitting there”; no one calls her Maria Blackwell anymore. Everyone who goes to that church is afraid to go near her.
Not even the priest can kick her out. What right does one person have to tell a believer and prayer to leave the house of God? So we all just leave her sitting there with the same blank, painful, expression plastered on her face.
She’s always wearing the same thing too. The same fancy black dress, hat and veil. Anyone would have thought that she just came back from a funeral.
It was around… after a month or two, we all forgot about her. She was just a statue to us now. But we still don’t go near her or sit on her bench. None of us wanted to have to deal with a crazy old lady.
But today was an exception. Sitting with her, I mean. I was walking home from college and suddenly it was storming outside. Sadly, I didn’t have a car yet because my parents refused to buy me one and I didn’t have enough money for one. Coincidentally, I was near the church and bolted for the inside. I shook off as much water as possible. With another look outside, I knew it was going to be a while before the storm died out.
With sigh and shifting my backpack’s position I walked down to the chapel with squeaking sneakers. I peeked inside to see if anyone else sought shelter and found Maria Blackwell, as usual, sitting in her bench. She didn’t even turn to see me as I walked inside.
I avoided eye contact because she was scarier than ever, especially with the lightning flashing. I sat on the bench a little away from her and pulled out my cell phone. Apparently there wasn’t any signal. With a light groan I pocketed it again and tried to not look around.
Without success, I peeked over my shoulder and glanced at Ms. Blackwell. It looked as if she was staring at me but her eyes seemed a little unfocused. I waved at her. Her expression and gaze was the same. She didn’t even blink.
I left my backpack on the bench and walked towards her. Something was strange and I wanted to find out why. Was she a professional “time freezer” or something? How does she not move at all like that? Seeing how old she looks, I figured that anyone her age would soon get tired of sitting so still after a while…
I stopped a few feet away. She was still scary looking. Especially because the dark shadows veiled her bony face. Her eyes seemed frozen in place with a dark strip of shade overlapping it. Thin lips set in a straight line and the wrinkles around it. I half expected her to jump up and do something.
Slowly, I tip toed towards her and waved a hand in front of her again. She didn’t move or blink, again. This time I was daring and sat down on her bench. It squeaked under my weight and I feared the noise would wake the old woman up. As usual, she didn’t stir at all.
I began to wonder if the woman was really alive or not. The lightning outside made me jump in surprise. I pulled out my cell phone to use as a miniature flashlight to examine the lady because the lightning and offering candles were certainly not helping.
Once I got a good look at her I was surprised. She looked nothing like the “creepy old lady” that I thought she’d be. Take away the tattered veil and she’d look like the grandma who would bake you fresh cookies everyday.
I proceeded to reach my hand out and tap her arm, “Hey, lady?”
She didn’t reply or even move to the touch. I tried again.
“Ms. Blackwell. You know you’ve been sitting here for quite some time… shouldn’t you go home?”
Again she didn’t answer.
With a sigh I poked her hand in hopes that some skin to skin contact would stir her. I stopped and felt her hand again. She was cold.