Rose had always been a churchgoer never allowing herself to miss a Mass, making sure her Sundays were dedicated only to Him and to her family. She had her routine: buy a white rose from the old lady who sold flowers just at the gate of the church for the benefit of an organization, take the rose to Mother Mary found on one corner of the church, and after the ceremony light a candle with her family; she did these everytime she’s at St. Martin’s. But she’s not a perfect participant, only active. Like others who didn’t fully comply to the must and must not of the church: not taking part in the Holy Communion like her sister who refused to have her lips unintentionally and unconsciously touched by the lay minister as he put the Bread to the recipient’s mouth, refusing to turn off their cellphones during the ceremony, talking and not kneeling down during the Consecration; Rose, too, had one thing she didn’t do and that was to give sign of peace to those sitting behind her. She used to do it until the last person she did it to made a shocking response it was so appalling she wanted to burst into tears. She wanted to walk out and not finish the ceremony but she chose to stay. She asked herself why a person, inside the sacred temple, would do such insolent act. Couldn’t he leave his impurities outside for an hour and be pure for once in his life? Since that haunting incident, Rose never looked behind her again afraid the incident would repeat itself. If it happened again she might lose the enthusiasm to come back to church. The following Sundays, she would only greet the people beside her (people who were members of her family and friends). And she would wait for the people, not members of her family and friends, to greet her first before she greeted them to avoid any unpleasant response. But this untimely vow to not to look behind her had cost Rose the chance to be with the man she had been praying and wishing for. And whether it was bad luck or wrong time, she could only try to swallow the fact that the man she’d been waiting to come along had passed and she missed it.
Rose’s job was a wedding planner and her client was a beautiful woman who would soon be married to a handsome man called Jack, the man who along the wedding process would capture her heart. Some days Rose would meet with the couple, but some days it would only be with one of them and the more she got to spend time alone with the groom the deeper she fell for him.
‘You’re a regular at St. Martin’s,’ he said.
‘Is that a question?’ she asked, unsure of his statement. He smiled. ‘Yes, I am. How do you know? Do you go there too?’ she asked with deep curiosity.
‘I do, as a matter-of-fact I see you every Sunday.’
Rose’s heart shrunk; she wanted to beat herself for not noticing him and beat him for not approaching her. Then, she realized maybe because she wasn’t interesting at all for him.
‘Really? Funny because I never saw you,’ she said, trying to comfort herself but it didn’t work.
‘Well, you never turned around.’
‘You were calling me?’
‘No, no.’ Jack laughed. His eyes showed adoration for the wedding planner but the latter wouldn’t notice it because her knack for observation had been blocked by her knowledge that he was to marry another girl soon. ‘I wasn’t calling you. I meant you never looked behind you to give peace during the Mass. I always got the seat behind you, I don’t know, coincidence maybe. So, do I get a discount for going to the same church and for recognizing you?’
If you marry me now you don’t need the discount I’ll plan our own wedding. ‘If you and your bride won’t give me a hard time, maybe.’
‘We won’t I promise, especially, Laura she wants this wedding done perfectly and she’ll do everything you ask her to.’
Would she leave you if I ask her to?
‘I think I better go you look like there’s a lot of things going in your mind and I don’t want to bother you. I’ve done what I came here for and I’m going.’
‘Tell Laura I said hi. Oh and, I won’t be here tomorrow it’s my birthday I’m having a day off. You two could come if you want to, but there would be NO inquiries about the wedding. That’s how I like my days off no business talk.’
‘Got it. I’ll tell Laura.’
Rose was surprised to see Jack arrive alone at her birthday party, but she was glad because she could talk to him without feeling awkward in front of Laura. ‘She couldn’t make it but she wanted you to have this. Happy birthday.’
All her guests had gone home but Rose managed to have Jack stay; it was the birthday gift she wanted and she got it with a bonus.
‘If I do this will you still marry her?’ She leaned forward and kissed him. ‘Oops, forgive me Father I have sinned.’
‘I think you had too much wine for tonight,’ said Jack.
‘But it’s my birthday I can drink as much as I want to.’
‘Of course.’ Rose moved closer and positioned her lips in front of his while he prepared to receive the kiss, but Rose moved back laughing.
‘I’m sorry, I’m not really drunk I’m just pretending to be.’ Jack sighed in disbelief but when he found it funny he started laughing with her.
‘How did you two meet?’ she inquired in a serious tone.
Jack smiled. ‘I’ll tell you if you promise not to tell Laura.’
‘What do you mean? Didn’t she already know how you met?’
‘Promise me first.’
‘Fine. I promise.’
‘Laura wasn’t the one I wanted to pursue there was another girl, but this girl she wouldn’t look behind her.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘I saw her at the church one Sunday and I just fell for her even though I didn’t know who she was or what she did. I didn’t even know her name.’
‘Why didn’t you pursue her?’
‘I asked for a sign and I kept waiting but I didn’t get it until I saw Laura. She did the sign I asked for and I thought maybe she was the one. I asked her out and we just clicked and now we’re engaged.’ Rose’s moment with Jack was ended by a ring of his cellphone; it was Laura asking his whereabouts.
‘Thank you for coming and for sharing your story with me.’ Just when she was about to get inside he posted one last question that would haunt Rose for the rest of her life.
‘Why wouldn’t you look behind you? I waited for the sign and that’s for you to look behind, but you never looked. Why?’
Rose had her reason but instead of telling him about the pervert old man she encountered in the church she told him, ‘I guess it’s not meant to be’. She refused to think that she had lost her once in a lifetime chance to be with Jack because of one unpleasant “peace be with you” moment with the wrong person.
‘I guess so,’ said Jack, and then he left. Rose was left in tears blaming everything on the old man. She didn’t see Jack again after that night; she handed the client’s wedding plan to her partner but gave Jack the discount he’d been joshing about. She went to a different church to pray that she would forget about him and to train herself to look behind her again in giving the sign of peace, tilting her head to a certain degree each Sunday. And after she had convinced herself that she’d forgotten about Jack, she went back to her Sunday routine at St. Martin’s. She met him again, which didn’t surprise her, he was a regular there too. What surprised her was to see him alone without his wife. It was Jack who saw her, he intentionally nudged her and whispered, ‘Don’t forget to look behind you.’
‘I’ve been practicing,’ she said sheepishly.
The priest had given the sign. It was fairly cold but little dots of water formed on Rose’s forehead. She looked to her left, then to her right, to the persons in front of her, and lastly behind her. There stood on the most exact angle where Rose’s head tilted a handsome man flashing his white teeth to her. From his position he looked as if he’d been waiting for Rose to look behind her, not even minding to look and give the sign to those people sitting next to him. She was surprised when he took a white rose out of his black suit and handed it to her saying, ‘For looking behind you.’
‘You two have met,’ said Jack, exiting from the opposite side of the church.
‘You boys know each other?’ asked Rose.
‘Toby’s my bestfriend,’ answered Jack.
‘We met at the church. We were altar boys. I’ll get the car, you two wait here,’ said Toby. As soon as he was away, Rose inquired about the suspicious conspiracy between the men. ‘You planned this,’ she asked.
‘You’re not the only one who knows how to plan things. Toby’s a great guy and a lucky one, too. You answered his sign. You looked at him.’
‘I guess it’s meant to be.’
‘I guess so.’
The crowd was becoming thin. Thousands of people were purified and ready to commit the same mistakes again. But the church looked holier than ever.
‘How’s Laura?’ asked Rose after appreciating the sacred architecture.
‘She’s at the hospital, in labor. I came here to pray for the safe delivery of my son.’
Rose would’ve felt dismayed hadn’t she met the boy with a flashing smile. And she realized how nice the couple was to her and she couldn’t be any happier for them. ‘That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!’
‘Thank you. You should come at the Christening no dates yet, but you should. Laura would be thrilled to see you. She was disappointed when she found out you’re not planning the wedding anymore.’
‘Sorry about that.’
‘Understood.’ Toby came back with the car and the three drove off.
We often ask for a sign but often we fail to provide it to those who are asking for it. - Rose