We’ve reached Part One. 13. of Soul Cages. When we last left off, Marian had hidden in her bedroom to try to forget her troubles, and had fallen asleep. (The novel is PG-13.)
Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore
Published by Osuna Publishing
This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.
Part One. Dreams in the Desert
My cell phone woke me. I glanced at it while under the covers. 8:43 p.m. The number was Ben’s.
“Hi. How’s it going?” Ben’s voice sounded so kind I wanted to curl up around my cell phone.
“Uh—not too bad. Henry insists I take him back to the park tomorrow.”
“When? Maybe we can join you.”
I smiled until I remembered tomorrow was Sunday. “I don’t know. Maybe in the afternoon—though it’ll be hot—it’s the only time I can take him. In the morning will be church service, and in the evening is a mandatory Youth Group meeting … I don’t want to go.” As soon I said the words I wished I could take them back. Ben wouldn’t want to listen to me whine about my parents’ church.
Ben cleared his throat. “First Beginnings got a bad reputation in the Jewish community last winter.”
“They started off in November approaching Jewish people in public places. Then they went around knocking on any door where there were Hanukkah decorations. A couple of rabbis tried to reason with the church’s pastor, but had no success. Complaints were filed with the police.”
“They didn’t hurt anyone, did they?”
“No. Just words.”
“I’m sorry.” I took a breath. “I don’t want to be part of First Beginnings. You don’t have to worry about me bothering you … and I know John won’t.”
“Thanks.” An awkward pause, then Ben talked about the two physics books I ought to get.
I crawled out of bed to find the pen in my purse and heard the bathroom sink turn on full blast. Henry getting ready for bed.
Ben said, “Are you okay?”
“Sorry, Ben. I was listening for my folks. I need to go. Henry expects us all at his goodnight ritual at nine-fifteen. Let’s plan on meeting at the park at one-thirty.”
I hit the OFF button just as someone reached my door.
“Marian?” My mom’s voice.
“Yeah, just a moment, I’m getting ready to change.” I switched the phone to vibrate and shoved it under my pillow, and unlocked my door.
Mom gave me the expected news that it was time to get ready for bed since church would be early.
Almost as soon as I got the door closed again, the cell phone buzzed, making the pillow shift. Next time I’d turn it completely off.
I recognized the number. Pastor Andervender’s home.
Oh, wait, John was going to call me.
“Marian.” It was John, sounding exhausted.
“You okay?” I slid open my closet, flicked on the light, and stepped in, sliding the door shut behind me. It would help muffle my voice if Mom or Dad walked by.
“I have to keep this short.” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been talking for hours. Or arguing. He said he’d try to explain Henry to his dad. I doubt Andervender took it well. John said, “I’ve convinced Dad to back off from Henry for a little while, a few weeks.”
“Thank you. But Henry hates to be touched. I don’t think that’s going to change in a few weeks time.”
“I know. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. At least for now he doesn’t have to deal with a healing prayer session every day.”
I shuddered. Having Andervender chase my brother around on a daily basis would be more than Henry could stand.
“I’d better go,” John said. “Maybe you and Henry can go for a hike later in the week?”
He hung up.
I did the goodnight ritual with Henry, took a shower, and got ready for bed. Then I punched in Nicole’s number and braced myself for getting chewed out.
“Marian, what has gotten into you! You’re never late in calling me. And those pictures of the house were so depressing. How are you?” Louis Armstrong music played in the background, which meant Nicole was having insomnia problems again. I’d seen Nicole on occasion, since her mother’s cancer diagnosis, stuck awake until three in the morning.
I said, “How is your mother doing?”
“It’s rough. But the tumors are shrinking. Grandpa and I are going to the farmer’s market tomorrow. We’re thinking maybe a vegetable soup will tempt Mom to eat. And Mom still insists I go to the family reunion with Dad. But you haven’t answered my question.”
“I’m—dammit, no, I’m not okay.” I sat on the closet floor, and pulled my body in tight. “It’s so messed up out here, I don’t even know where to start.”
Nicole said, soothing, “Start from my call Thursday night, and go from there.”
So I did, though I left out that it was John who had told me about Sydney’s suicide.
“This is serious,” Nicole said. “They could hurt Henry by accident, just like that quack healer almost did. And First Beginnings sounds wacko. You’re going to have to call your aunt.”
I grimaced at the memory of Aunt Letty and Dad screaming at each other about the quack treatment I’d let Letty know about. “She doesn’t get back from Germany until August. I’m on my own until then. Both Mom and Dad gave permission to Pastor Andervender to do the laying on of hands. Until I can get them to change their minds, perhaps John can keep coaxing his dad to postpone the healing attempts.”
Nicole said, “Good luck. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
“Oh, by the way, Trent was asking about you.” Nicole snickered. “He broke up with Sage, and was miffed to find out you were gone.”
“That sleazebag can get lost.”
“Don’t tell me you’re still beating yourself about him.”
“I can’t help it. Every time I remember being at the doctor, I want to punch him in the mouth.” I’d been lucky. I hadn’t caught anything from him the few lousy times I’d slept with him—I’d insisted on him using protection despite his complaints—and then I’d found out about him sneaking around with Sage behind my back, and dumped him. Humiliating in the extreme.
I’d learned the hard way that love could be a one-way street to getting used.
Nicole said, “I think you should have a T-shirt made with ‘World’s Worst Lover’ printed on it, and mail it to him. He acts like you’re going to crawl back to him someday. Too bad Matthew is another jerk.”
“Yeah. And John is too tied up with that awful church, and I wouldn’t dare bring Ben near my parents right now with the way First Beginnings is about Jews. Dating can wait. I’ll find someone at Juan Tabo.”
“You know,” Nicole said, “if things get, um, difficult, I could ask my Mom if you could rent the basement room.”
My mind leaped at the thought—finishing up at my old school, no more First Beginnings. But what would happen to Henry? “I don’t know,” I said. “Let me see if I can talk sense into my folks.”
I turned the conversation to what Nicole was up to, tired of talking about my own mess.
************** End of Part One. 13. *****************
See you in October! L.M.