Nine thirty in the morning - that’s the time the airplane of Father Marcus and his secretary landed on the City of Prague. They were greeted by a chauffeur named Mr. Ocarino, who was instructed by Madame Regina to drive them to the Rogratiatto Estate.
“The estate is past the city, located in the first mountain you see in your windows gentleman. It is going to be a long ride, so please do entertain yourselves along the way, ” the driver stated in thick English, addressing the two before he drove the limousine out of the airport parking area. They nodded with this and went on to glance at each of their side’s window.
True to what the driver stated, the travel was a long one. Marcus spent amusing himself with the scenery outside, while Father Julien, as usual, went on to pray the rosary cycle. It was actually their second time visiting the city. The first was when Marcus got invited to become a speaker in a youth assembly. It was five years ago however, so it wasn’t a surprise he was astonished to see the many changes of the city in terms of streets and stores aligned near the road.
The usual could be seen in a city that is the heart of every country. Locals and tourists were mixed, walking in the paved roads and side lanes. Busy businesses were open for customers to dine, shop or just dally around. The city didn’t have any festivity, but people seemed to crowd in the parks more than usual.
Noticing the exorcist priest’s perplexed expression, Mr. Ocarino smiled and broke the seemingly unending silence inside the car. “The city is this abuzz Father whenever it has this kind of beautiful weather. We have quite a round of rainfall these past few days, so to have this sunshine is a fresh welcome for us.”
Marcus shifted and met the driver’s gaze on the front-view mirror.
“Ah, so that explains it, ” he stated, feeling educated in the most unexpected way. “Thank you for the information Sir.”
The driver smiled some more and nodded. “You’re welcome Father.”
Covering a few miles more of road, they passed by a public square that was situated at the center of a road intersection. It was of decent size, confined by a long stretch of thigh-high iron-wrought gate. Tree of different species grew inside it, landscaped together with flowering shrubs and finely-trimmed grass. At the center of the plaza, there was a tall six-tier Renaissance fountain, making the place looking grander than a common park.
Marcus watched as the car sped its way into the intersection. However, when he caught a glimpse of something tasty in his line of vision inside the plaza, he immediately called out to the driver, “Stop! Stop the car now!”
Finding it sudden, Mr. Ocarino abruptly pressed on the brake pedal and whirled to face him. Good thing that they had stopped near the sidewalk, otherwise they would have caused an unexpected traffic on the road.
“Why Father? What’s the matter?” the chauffeur asked, raising a brow of confusion.
Father Julien threw a look of puzzlement on his colleague too and then said, “Is there something bothering you Father? Why do you want the car to stop?”
Marcus looked at them with a face that showed he was stone cold serious. Clearing his throat, he pulled out a newly-exchanged Czech crown worth a hundred Euros from his personal bag’s pocket. “I need to buy something, ” was his answer to their worried query and this made Father Julien suppress a laugh consequently.
Mr. Ocarino’s brows lifted even more finding the secretary priest’s snicker confusing. He eyed the exorcist priest who was now stepping out of the car speedily and thought it odd.
“There goes the infamous Glutton Marcus, ” he heard Father Julien say as soon as the car door closed.
Marcus’ attention went straight to crossing the pedestrian lane. It wasn’t a difficult task as there were less cars on the way to the other road. His loose white shirt was pressed evenly on his chest due to a sudden rush of wind when he crossed. In no way did he look like a priest with his garb, but even so, the way Marcus walked, it looked like he was showered with an aura of holiness, much like priests should be. One that differed him above all else though is his air of confidence. His broad shoulders were straight, his chin raised, and though he wasn’t cocky or arrogant, he wore a smirk on his face. This smirk was evident now as thoughts of the tasty trdelnik played on his mind.
Was there a twinkle in his eyes too? Well... yes, there was, but no passerby noticed it.
Once he entered the plaza, his direct motive was to buy the pastry he had been wanting to taste since after their first visit in Prague years ago. A food stall just a few feet away from the center fountain sells it and this was where he was heading to without a second thought.
There were just some few people near and around the fountain when he reached it. One man was holding a dozen of colorful balloons, selling them to any visitor. There were children playing in one corner and in the other, some teenagers texting. Numerous benches were located alongside the cobblestone pathways; some were vacated and the others were taken.
Marcus, before nearing the food stall, noticed a brief flash of light some distance away from him. He disregarded it, but momentarily caught sight of the photographer. It was a woman with her hand holding a professional camera, engrossed with her current subject - the man holding the balloons.
“Ahoj! Pane, osm rohlíky prosím, ” (“Mister, eight rolls please.“) Marcus stated to the middle-aged vendor when he arrived in the stall, his Czech accent tightening with his words. It was his meager attempt to converse using the foreign language he had little knowledge of, but the vendor understood it at least, smiling as he attended to the priest’s order. Marcus eyed the freshly-cooked rolls of pastry hang in an open flame of oven and his mouth watered in reaction. He had missed the taste of the caramelized coating of the pastry and he was longing like a child to experience it again.
After putting the rolls inside the brown paper bag, the vendor handed it to him. “Tady to je, ” (“Here it is.“) he said with a smile again, “U?ívat si.” (“Enjoy.“)
“Ano d臎kuji, ” (“Yes, thank you.“) Marcus replied before stepping away from the stall, cradling the bag in one arm.
Unable to wait, he took out a small piece and shoved it in his mouth. It was an unceremonious manner, but he cared less of who would catch a look on it. He wasn’t worried of any judgmental eyes, none at all, except for a small young child that is - a girl of about nine-years-old who gazed at him with much anticipation in her rounded blues.
“Dear child, are you by any chance lost?” Marcus asked, observing her and studying if she can understand what he was saying. By the look on the child’s face however, it seemed like it wasn’t the case. The girl continued to look at him, but Marcus noticed that her eyes were shifting intently on the bag full of rolls. Watching the area around them, he realized that the child might be a beggar, considering there was no parent or guardian together with her. Marcus managed a warm smile, remembering himself young once, then took out two pastries out of the bag without hesitation.
“Here take this little one, ” he stated, stooping low to hand the gift to the angelic child. This made the girl’s eyes lit up and gave a toothy smile. As she swiped the rolls from Marcus’ hand, a flash of light appeared a few feet away from them. This caught Marcus’ attention and went to glance at the source. It was the photographer earlier, with the same camera in hand. Just in time, the woman turned her back focusing on another subject for her camera’s lens, acting the way most professional photographer’s do - keenly observant, but detached on the real world.
Marcus shrugged the event out of his mind and turned back his attention on the little girl, but he found her already skipping steps away from him, biting the dough in mouthfuls. He smiled, finding her attitude carefree.
Father Julien’s sudden appearance in one pathway made Marcus raise a brow. It was always the usual for his colleague to stay inside the vehicle and wait for him especially during his exorcism rites, but right now, he was actually out of the limousine with a wide grin on his face.
“I thought we could make an exception and take a short break from our travel, what say you Father? Those rolls you have there would be better enjoyed sitting in a table while sipping a cup of tea, ” Father Julien stated.
Marcus waited for a moment to reply. He thought well and hard and found that his secretary was indeed right on that regard. He subsequently nodded and eyed some tables and chairs set up in a grassy area near another food stand selling refreshments.
“I guess a few minutes of break wouldn’t be harmful, ” said Marcus thoughtfully.
“Great! Then I think I will buy some tea there then, ” Father Julien stated and went his way into the refreshments booth.
Marcus went to sit on a vacant chair just outside of the center fountain’s granite-covered expanse. The grass in this part of the plaza was even thinly cut to provide visitors a dining area. The particular space smelt of mint and soil, but Marcus found the aroma a nice change from the smell of incense he had been accustomed to back in Italy. Placing the brown bag in the round metal table, he decided to scan the whole plaza while waiting for Father Julien’s order of tea.
It wasn’t really his intention to, but his attention solely fell on the woman photographer now sitting on the fountain’s base. The wavy fall of her brown hair along her shoulders complemented the brightness of the sun. The strands shimmered so beautifully it made Marcus want to steal a lock or two as a souvenir. Although wearing some boyish clothes: a long-sleeved knitted sweater, black jeans and Converse shoes, she looked elegant in the way she moved. Her fair complexion showed that she doesn’t spend time under the sun for long periods of time, but her facial expression of happiness looking at a group of children now playing the skipping rope, showed that she enjoyed being under the hot weather. She was a breathtaking sight in comparison to any other objects or person inside the plaza and Marcus was enjoying the view most certainly.
Abruptly though, as if the woman knew, she glanced at his way and Marcus suddenly found himself eye to eye with her. It was just a brief encounter, nothing to take note of, but his heart, keeping normal beats, unexpectedly jump twice out of place. It surprised him, yes. He felt as if he was caught stealing something that he wasn’t permitted to. However, ultimately disregarding it as a normal occurrence and unable to divert his eyes away from the woman, he continued to gaze at her, shooting up invisible flares of fireworks between their wide space as he did so.