— So, where are they?
— Right here — Jay opened his locker and took out two packs of garments just like the ones he was wearing before, one his size and the other specially made for Judah’s size.
— Do I really need to wear this? — Judah questioned. — I know you made them for me and all, but I mean… This is not my style.
— I know — Jay replied helping Judah putting his shirt. — Wish you could wear something normal here, but it’s the rule to wear this all the time.
— What about my jockstrap? I didn’t bring any spare ones.
— Got you covered — Jay got another pack from his locker. — One good thing here is you can wear anything underneath your uniform.
— Wait… — Judah said looking at Jay who was wearing his shirt and his fresh tight-withies from head to toe. — Did you choose to wear… that?
— I don’t mind if you laugh. I like them. They are comfortable and look nice on me.
Judah tried to hold a giggle, thinking how Jay’s shorty look and underwear deemed for kids made a really good pair in his mind. Then he looked at the pack of jockstraps.
— Wait… those are mine! — He noticed.
— Yes. I’ve got them myself — Jay simply said, while putting his pants up.
— Did you go to my home and steal these? — Judah tried to understand.
— I don’t need to go anywhere to steal anything. Again, anything that has a shadow can be stolen by my magic.
— Damn… What else did you get from me?
— Nothing that I didn’t give back to you fresh and clean.
— Wait… Wait… — Judah made after putting on his jockstrap, but forgetting to put on his new pants. — I remember finding a lot of my things fresh cleaned a couple of times! Were you… Were you the one who did all that?
— Yup! — Jay smiled.
— The f___... — and Judah put his pants on. — Thanks… My dad would have killed me if I didn’t get things done at home.
— I know. That’s why we need to go meet him now.
— I know. You can stay calm and everything will be handled in a minute.
— He must be going crazy! F___! How I could forget he’s still around?!
— Let just say you needed a reason to stay and a reason for him to let you in. He probably saw how shiny the whole church is from the inside.
— So… you know about that too?
— Yes. Don’t worry, I will handle it for you — Jay grinned.
— Will you — Judah whispered quite low — steal it for me?
Jay nodded positively.
— I’m afraid you will not like it in the end. But it’s all on me. No need to worry about being the thief this time.
— You are really a great friend! Wish we had met before though.
— We did. I wouldn’t ever forget that time. I know you would, but guess your dad wouldn’t ever forget my face, even if I had lost most of my melanin recently.
— Wait… When did we meet?
— It’s time to go — Jay said ignoring Judah. — You will talk to your dad and I will need to talk to the priest. Listen carefully to what he says. As Isaac and Israel are out dealing with the bishop, we will probably see Noah, he likes to be gentle, but if you put him off, he will probably beat you down.
— Why aren’t you afraid of them? I would!
— Believe me, these are the guys that want us to be safe and sound. You should be prepared for the ones that want to control us and make us part of something evil.
— Wait… What do you mean?
— We have enemies. The ones we face now are our friends, even though they are rude and wouldn’t mind beating us down.
— You mean… there’s something… worse?
— Yes. That’s why Peter likes to say it so often. There’s always something worse here.
Judah finished lacing his new clean boots and covering them with the pants' legs. He looked at himself in a mirror. Still the same ordinary boy with dark skin, shaved hair, a scar making a slit on his left eyebrow, magical blue eyes, and Black features like a big nose and big lips. He caressed his chin and felt maybe soon he would need to start shaving it. He buttoned the last button at the top of the shirt and put on his vest, also buttoning it.
— Here — Jay said, showing Judah his new red bow tie.
— What? Do I need to use it too?
— Don’t worry. I made it with a clipper. Just don’t move it so much and it must stay in place.
— Did you really think about everything about me?
— What I could do, yes — Jay finished putting the bow on Judah’s neck. — There. It’s really not bad! I should make one for myself one day.
Judah looked at himself in the mirror. He couldn’t explain for sure. He could swear he would be all silly and suffocated in such formal clothes, but they were fitting him as lightly as a feather.
— We need to go now… Woah! — Jay made, as Judah held him with his arm on his back, making Jay bend backwards. — What are you doing? — Jay giggled.
— Just giving you my thanks — and Judah gave Jay a soft and quick kiss. — How was that?
— Worth it… — Jay blushed hard with the unexpected kiss.
— We are even now — Judah said, organizing his posture and clothes.
Jay started walking back to the church and passed by Peter at the door.
— Where’s Jay? — Peter asked.
— He’s coming. He’s just taking his time to figure something out.
— Wait… What did you do to him?
— Nothing much — Judah also kissed Peter, but this time on his cheek and he also blushed hard.
Peter lost his track again and held the wall. Judah went ahead while Jay was coming slowly and smiling as if the path was filled with flowers, rainbows, and sunshine.
— How are we supposed to deal with him?! — Peter shouted, infuriated.
Jay simply sighted.
— No need to worry about it now.
— How not? He’s trouble and you know it! How can you stay so calm? — Peter insisted.
— Calm down — Jay got Peter’s red bow tie back in place. — Don’t lose your grace upon it. If you want to win, stay calm, nothing good comes from anger.
— And what I’m supposed to do now? Fall in love with him too by chance?
— No. He’s graceful and all, but you wouldn’t fall in love with him even if you wanted. Look at the way you want to treat him so bad! When you love, you would wish him to be fine all the time.
— Wouldn’t you hurt him if he hurts you then?
— Dear Peter, no one’s going to be as much hurt in here than me, and yet… and yet… — Jay sighted again.
— It’s a shame how the Lord just put us to fight against each other. It’s not the Lord’s fault, as he didn’t send us to any war, but I can’t help but see how we still need guidance, still need more wisdom… and yet… Knowing things is just poison. It’s better to not know, my good friend. Treasure the memory you have about him, no one will be as good to you as he was today.
— Why not? — Peter asked, almost giving up.
— The world wasn’t made for a child’s play. No one really cares how love is important. Judah forgot how much he hates boys for us, he was showing his true self, the good one. No regrets, no anger, nothing bad… He was clean today.
— So he will still turn against you, is that what you mean?
— Nope. If we treat him well, he will try to keep us together and be the best that he can be.
— But there’s something behind it, doesn’t it?
— Yes. Corruption happens to the best of us and that’s what the priests hate the most.
Jay finally started walking and Peter followed him.
When Judah finally reached the church his dad was huffing in rage as his son went missing for hours. He didn’t have time to swallow his fear dry.
— What the hell are you wearing? — He subtly turned at Judah. — I tell you to stay and not get lost and then you steal the boys’ clothes? Are you trying to ruin our plan?
— No b… — His father's hands were itching to beat him down at the littlest mistake. — No, sir. The boys lend me this, as we got dirty in the river mud and…
— I knew it! You must have almost died in the damn river! Stay away from there from now on, this place is too suspicious! As I suspected they have lots of jewels all around the church! You must get into the mass service and steal some pieces. The priest who attended me told me you can’t use your phone here, but you need to find a way to contact me! Try to sneak out at night or something. I will come to the mass the next Sunday and you tell me how we will do. Can you remember this? You are not so stupid to not understand something so simple, right? — His face was still clearly mad at Judah.
— Yes, sir — Judah simply said.
“How Jay can help me with this? Without my phone I’m f___d!” he thought to himself.
Judah’s father was looking at his clothes.
— Those must be expensive. Where did you get some damn fine clothes?!
— I told you, they just gave me. They said they were made by hand and…
— I see, I see… — His father interrupted. — They must be teaching tailoring here. This place smells too old for me. Can’t help but see how they should be falling apart and yet they keep things together like in the old days. They must have some resources that we can’t see from outside. You should try to learn from where their money comes from. If we can intercept it, we would be rich for sure! And…
Jay and Peter were coming close.
— Smile! Smile! — Judah’s father ordered trying to pretend he was a good father.
— Good morning, mister Lux — Jay simply said with a dissimulated smile.
— Wait… — He stared at Jay better as his own fake smile faded. — How did you get here, boy?
— Oh, you know, after what happened that day, priest Isaac took me in. He was my dad’s brother after all.
Judah looked puzzled. Peter didn’t understand what was going on.
— This must be your doing! Judah would never come to such a stupid place! He doesn’t even sing!
— That’s because you never stopped to listen to him sing, sir — Jay said still with a silly pretentious smile on his face.
— Uhuh… — Judah’s father turned to his son and ordered. — Sing.
Judah looked nervous and couldn’t help but make an angry ‘what are you doing?’ face to Jay.
— Don’t worry. Remember when Peter sang? You just need to remember. Start slow and try to reach the tone — then Jay started singing. — Oh, morning glory… Oh, morning glory…
“Oh, he sounds nice too”, Judah thought.
— Now you try, as we rehearsed — and he sang slowly. — Oh, morning glory… Oh, morning glory…
— I… I can’t… — Judah whispered.
— Oh, c’mon! It’s not so bad singing in front of your dear father, is it?
Judah looked at his father and he was glaring at him.
— Oh, boy… — and Judah tried some notes. — Oh… morn… ing…
— No, no! — Jay ordered. — Breath in, breath out. — Judah copied him. — Breath in and let it out slowly. Oh, morning glory…
— Oh, morning glory…
— Almost there! Feel the Lord’s son blessing you, my friend. Oh… morn… ing… glory…
— Oh… morn… ing… glory…
— Yup! That’s it! Remember to try to keep your tone right or it goes off. Oh, morning glory…
— Oh, morning glory…
— That’s it! Peter, help us here!
— Oh morning glory — the three sang at the same time.
“What the hell”, Judah thought to himself “I can sing too?!”
— Okay, this is ridiculous! — Judah’s father interrupted. — So what if he sings well? You had put him into this, didn’t you?!
“I sing well?” Judah screamed to himself internally “My dad likes something… in me?!”
— Oh no, sir. This is what you are doing. Why did you bring him here then? — Jay asked feeling triumphant inside, smiling from ear to ear.
— Oh you — Judah’s father made a move showing he was about to slap Jay’s cynical face.
— Jay! — Said priest Noah, coming from the church. — The Lord be praised! Did you find your little friend already?
— Yes, reverend — Jay replied, ignoring Judah’s father. — He met me by the grotto, but we had some trouble with the mud from the rain of the other day, but he’s completely ready to enter our beloved school!
— Thank Lord you are always ready to help the other boys, my son! — Priest Noah sounded really pleased by it. — Let’s get in. You must be so eager to sign the papers, mister Lux!
— Yeah — he said sounding dissatisfied. — Let’s get in. I have places to go, people to meet…
All five started walking, but Judah’s father held his son behind a little.
— That boy… — He said quickly, trying to not call their attention. — Stay away from him. If I ever believed in demons, it’s because of him! Steal the goodies and get out.
Judah couldn’t reply and they were back in motion.
Inside the church, Judah saw how shiny the place was. It was adorned by golden pieces every square meter in the walls, where a painting depicting a scene from the sacred books was hanging. The columns and their arches made of limestone were also adorned in gold details. Above, from the mezzanine circling the church, Judah saw big stained glass windows and the sunny day outside made the scenes they were portraying about the Lord’s son suffering too beautiful to be about dread and torture. The nave was filled with pews made from solid wood and they were varnished recently by the way they were shining. The floor was practically a mirror from its fine polished marble. At the altar area, both altar and pulpit were made from marble, eventually, this time they were stained marble, white and grey with dark lines. Above those, their cloths were fine-made white fabric, with golden embroidery highlighting the church’s symbol, the black cross. Behind the altar, a huge modern three-dimensional realistic figure of the Lord’s son seemly floating in the blue decorated sky with a visible painted crown made of light rays around his head in the wall, had his arms wide open, welcoming whoever entered the church with a compassionate expression.
— Woah… — made Judah astonished by such a fine place. — This place is so… so…