There was little else to say. The woman rounded off her serene exposition and remained silent, as if wanting to give the young priest some time to assimilate everything that he had just heard. It was necessary for him to take a few seconds, and he shifted nervously in his seat a couple of times. When he finally became aware of the fact that the woman had finished, he did not know what to say. Of course, he had felt uncomfortable in the confessional on a few other occasions, including those in which he had had to endure sexual propositions, but this one today was very different. He noticed how his blood had run cold through his veins, and the warm aroma of incense and laurel in the church had transformed within his small, enclosed corner, into a macabre stench of death. A sensation that was as indescribable as it was repulsive.
Finally, he stuttered several times, and only managed to say timidly:
“I cannot grant you absolution. At least, not right now.”
The confession now over, the priest looked up through the screen, and could see as the woman was beginning to stand up, just as she was asking him one last question:
“Can I rely on you?”
The young priest hesitated for a moment. Not because he wanted to think about his response, but rather more as a result of the pure state of bewilderment in which he found himself.
“Yes, I will be there. The exact same time next week…” he answered, eventually, trying to find a sign of confirmation from her.
But there was no answer. Nor were there any more questions. The woman finished getting up, and then her image disappeared from behind the screen.
The priest slightly opened the upper part of his confessional and, through the narrow crack, he followed her with his eyes. Her features were rounded, as if created in accordance with an established model. Her hair, black and tied back in a ponytail. Nothing in those moments differentiated her from the rest of the people in the church and, in spite of the attractive curves that one could make out beneath her jeans and modest t-shirt, nobody took any notice of her.
In a few short seconds, he slipped away down the side nave, making his way discreetly towards the exit door. He did not stop to pray, or do a penance, or even pause at the Eucharist. Put simply, he just went.
The young priest tilted his head unconsciously, trying to follow her for longer, but it ended up being impossible amongst the multitude of people packed into the church. As soon as the woman had completely disappeared from his reduced field of vision, he could not avoid crossing himself quickly, in a compulsive manner, as if he had just seen the very Devil itself. A real one, of flesh and bone, and it had even told him its name: Emma.
He was certain now that he would never forget it.