February 11, 2029, City Square, Rome, Italy
The phone in Benjamin’s hotel room rings as he is stepping out of the shower. He wraps a towel around his waist, looks at his watch, and shakes his head as he heads for the ringing phone. “Hello, this is Benjamin Hume. I received my correct wake-up call thirty minutes ago at 7:00 a.m. I didn’t schedule one for 7:30.”
It’s Janet, and she cuts right to the chase. “What does one wear to see the Pope?”
“Good morning, Ambassador. You are up early. Let me see, knowing you and your wardrobe, I’m guessing you’re standing in front of the mirror right now holding your green Donna Karan suit—which you specifically packed for this event—wondering if the stuffy green suit is necessary. You’re hoping I’ll suggest you wear something a little lighter and more girly, like your powder blue Michael Kors dress and matching coat. Though you know you look great in both, you’re wondering if I have noticed your long legs and slim waist show better in the Kors set—am I close to setting the scene in your room?”
Janet doesn’t know how to answer. She looks into her full-length mirror and eyes the green Karan suit still on its hanger in her right hand. In the reflection, she can see the blue Kors pairing she is considering hanging on the closet door behind her. “Ok, that’s amazing. Now, will you help me?”
“Ha, of course I will. Go with the Kors. We’ll be outside. It’s not a private meeting, so you have some freedom. You can get the powder blue to work with the winter season by pairing it with the suede rose pumps and matching gloves you brought. Long pearls will look good once the sun is visible and you drop the coat for our site-seeing.”
“Wow. I don’t know how you did that, but thank you for putting together a great look for me. Thank you for noticing my wardrobe enough to be able to do that. I’m not too predictable, am I? If I were you would tell me, right?”
“No, you’re not too predictable. You make career movements I never see coming. You’re good—but, running a little late right now. See you in the lobby?”
“Yes. I’ll be the lady in the powder blue suit with rose gloves and suede shoes.”
“What are you looking at on your cell phone?” Janet quizzes Benjamin as they climb the steps to the lower of the two courtyards that lead to St. Peter’s Square.
“It’s the Pope app.”
“There’s a Pope app?”
“Sure. Why not? It gives information on the Mass services and Pope Kellan’s schedule. It even has his weekly Writings of Encouragement for us church members.”
“Sometimes I forget how important this man is to your religion. Judaism doesn’t have a central figurehead like Catholicism. Everything is handled by the Rabbi of the Synagogue you attend. That’s true all over the world.”
Benjamin looks up from his phone. “Don’t you think it’s a little odd how a religion that has been torn apart by wars and the Holocaust hasn’t formed a governing body to have a unified voice?”
“That may be the very reason we don’t have a unified voice. Jews have been sculpted by a history of persecution. We prefer to move about quietly—but, we don’t mind the recognition for our pursuit of excellence. Did you know twenty-three percent of all Nobel Prizes given at this point in history have been awarded to Israeli Jews? Pretty impressive for a country with only eight million people.” She turns to gauge his reaction.
Benjamin nods, “Hey, you won’t get an argument from me. I’m in awe of you and your people. Which reminds me, I want to thank you for coming today. This is very special for me. I used to dream of coming here with Lindsey and James. For Catholic parents, this is the most important journey we make with our families.” Benjamin seems lost in his thoughts as they cross the lower courtyard together. He doesn’t notice that the crowds are flooding in upon them as they climb to the higher courtyard.
Janet is waiting for her assistant’s usual crowd panic to take over. Instead, she senses his raw emotion pulling him away from the moment. She slips her arm around his. She feels an overwhelming urge to share her darkest secret. “Benjamin, I know how much it hurts to lose someone you love. I lost a daughter. I had a baby when I was seventeen. My parents raised her in Jerusalem while I was attending George Mason and starting my career in D.C. I saw her on school breaks and in the summers.”
Janet pauses and swallows hard before she says the hard part. “She committed suicide when she was seventeen. The note she left behind was short and didn’t blame me, but I still carry the guilt. I think about her every day.” The two continue walking in silence. “You know what I wonder about most? I wonder if I’ll ever see her again. Do you ever wonder if you’ll see Lindsey again?”
Benjamin stops and takes Janet’s hand in his. “I’m sorry for your loss. I wish I would have known about it sooner. I think I understand a little more about the things that drive you now. At the risk of sounding smug, I know I’ll see Lindsey again. My spiritual beliefs are that she still exists and is waiting for James and me to join her. I sense her at times. I see her in my dreams. So does James. I believe she’s in another dimension—a Heaven. Someday, we will pass over there and be reunited. Of this, I have no doubt. It’s what keeps me going.”
“That’s amazing. You are at peace. I don’t have that. When Tova left us, I spent years trying to shut out the few memories I had with her. All they did was torture me. Oddly enough, I do feel her at times, just like you said. She’s somewhere, I am confident of that—I just don’t know where. I don’t have the relationship you have with your God. I wish I did.”
Benjamin squeezes her hand. “It’s our God, Janet.”
She smiles back at him. “Yes, I do believe you and I share the same God. I need to settle my thoughts on all of this—and soon. I’m about to be forty years old. Plus, I have a daughter out there somewhere, and I would like to see her again. Maybe, this trip to the Vatican will clarify some things for me.”
“I know it will. Whoa, I drifted off a bit there.” He spins around to see throngs of people coming from every direction. “Where did they all come from? There’s still two hours until the window opens. I’m glad the Embassy got us tickets for the seating area. Isn’t it amazing to see all these people from different nations assembling together to receive a mutual spiritual blessing?”
“Yes, it reminds me of a day at the U.N. It gives me new hope for humanity. By the way, which language does the Pope use to give his blessing? Will I be able to follow it?
“According to the app, the Papal Audience Address will be given in Italian, English, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and in any other language requested ahead of time. With so many versions given, it’s a good thing it’s a short address. It will be twenty minutes, tops. He will begin with a short welcome, followed by the Angelus—a Catholic devotion. He’ll import the Apostolic Blessing at the end of the prayer.”
“Will I need to stand, or kneel? I remember that being a big deal when I attended Mass with my college roommate.”
Benjamin laughs. “Just follow me. It will be simple. In fact, even more simple than reading Hebrew backwards in a Synagogue.”
Janet giggles, “You got me there. Alright, I’ll see you on the other side of security. If we get separated, save me a seat—or come find me. I only speak English and French, no Italiano.”
“You’re murdering the language already.”
Janet winks as she hands a security officer her purse for screening.