The Confessions

By: Tiffany Reisz

An Original Sinners Collection

“The Confession of Marcus Stearns” takes place during the historical timeframe of the Original Sinners White Years novels The Saint and The King. “The Confession of Eleanor Schreiber” takes place the year before the present-day events of The Virgin and The Queen.

The Confession of Marcus Stearns

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

And He said to them, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

God said, Let there be music. And there was music.

At least, that’s what Father Ballard assumed had happened. Father Stuart Ballard took his seat in the second-to-last pew and sent a prayer skyward, a simple thank you to God for creating music. He’d come in as the choir—a university group from somewhere in Kentucky—started its second piece, a bluegrass rendition of “Be Thou My Vision.”

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art

Thou my best thought, by day or by night

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Thy presence my light… Perfect words in Ballard’s estimation. A perfect hymn. No wonder it was Marcus’s favorite. Too bad the boy wasn’t here to hear it.

Boy? He’s a man now, Stuart. Not a boy anymore, Ballard chided himself. Stop classifying anyone under the age of 40 as a child. Marcus was a fully ordained priest now. He had his own parish. And yet as long as Ballard lived, he’d always picture Marcus the same way—18 years old, a shattered heart limping in his chest, baring his soul to him one dark night because, as Marcus said, “I heard something about you, Father Ballard. They say you loved someone, and she left you. I loved someone too, and he left me.” And that boy had looked at him with agony in his eyes and whispered, “Can you help me?”

Father Ballard had answered the plea with a hand on top of the boy’s blond head and one word.


Music had been the key that had unlocked the gates of the boy’s labyrinthine psyche. When Marcus had entered seminary, he’d been a blond wall of intellect, of taciturn reserve. He rarely spoke unless spoken to first. He showed no inclination of even attempting to make friends. And, to make matters worse, he scared the shit out of everyone—Father Ballard included. Until that night…the night Ballard discovered Marcus alone in the chapel after-hours playing a haunting sonata with his eyes closed. Ballard had listened a moment, moved by the boy’s talent and utter absorption. Ballard certainly knew that feeling. So he’d gone to his office, dug around for a few minutes, and returned to the chapel with his guitar, an amplifier, and sheet music. The look of cold, quiet fury Marcus had given Ballard when he’d interrupted his playing nearly sent him scurrying. But he was older by thirty years than this young whelp and stood his ground.

“Enough of that long-haired shit,” Ballard said. He loved classical music but he wasn’t about to let Marcus know that. “Hands like yours were created to serve the devil’s music. Play.”

Marcus glanced at the sheet music in front of him and looked up at Ballard with unconcealed disgust.

“Father Ballard, you must be joking,” Marcus said.

“Does it look like I’m joking?”

“They print sheet music for this?”

“Just play, you pretentious snob, or else you’ll be cleaning bathrooms until Christmas,” Ballard ordered again as he plugged in his Gibson SG. “Consider this part of your spiritual development.”

Marcus sighed so that Ballard knew he was doing this entirely against his will. But the boy had played. It took a minute or two and a few false starts before he fell into the rhythm of the song. But five minutes later the five-hundred-year-old Roman chapel was filled to the rafters with the soaring sounds of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a piece made glorious on piano and electric guitar. They didn’t need words. They’d leave the singing to Freddie Mercury and the angels. After the song ended, Ballard saw something he’d never seen before and had despaired of ever seeing: Marcus smiled.

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