On to Soul Cages. This week we reach a milestone: the last chapter of Part One. This novel is PG-13 for language and situations, so please be advised.
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
Friday morning came all too soon. Even the distraction of having to drop Dad off at work couldn’t help me keep from dwelling on the upcoming meeting with Andervender.
Henry and I discovered that Dad worked in a glass-and-concrete office building near I-25. “Nusystech is on the top three floors,” Dad told us. “After the October software release, I’ll be able to work less hours.”
Dad and Mom then fought for over ten minutes about what time Mom should pick him up. Mom wanted him to come home early since it was Friday. Dad felt it would look bad if he left while the programmers he oversaw were still working. In the end they compromised on six o’clock.
After Dad got out, I had to get into the front passenger seat. Next stop, First Beginnings.
Mom drove hunched over the wheel, fuming about Dad refusing to leave early.
Near the end of the drive, Henry sensed Mom’s upset. He pointed at a gathering of pigeons on a streetlight. “Pigeon party!”
Mom didn’t laugh.
“Pigeon party!” Henry said again.
“Hush, Henry,” Mom said.
We pulled into the cracked parking lot for First Beginnings. On a weekday the shopping center was even more depressing to look at. Except for First Beginnings in the center, most of the storefronts were empty. Only a locksmith and a tax service were in business on the far left side of the center.
Mom led the way, pulling open a glass door that let out a blast of chilled air. To me, Mom’s heels echoed too loudly in the empty sanctuary. As we approached Andervender’s office, I smelled his aftershave and heard his chair creak as he shifted in it.
Mom rapped on his office doorframe. She peered in to exchange joyous greetings with Andervender, as Henry and I lingered behind.
“You ought to get a secretary,” Mom said.
“Next year,” Andervender replied, “perhaps the church can hire one. With the way we’re growing, we’ll soon have the funds to do so. And I’m thinking we’ll be ready for a Wednesday night service. Maybe even a second service on Sundays.”
I realized, appalled, that Mom might apply for the secretary job.
Mom said to me, “I’ll take Henry. You come get us when you’re done.” Mom led Henry over to the Sunday School room, entered, and closed the door behind them—leaving me in the hall.
I took deep breaths and shoved my shaking hands into my pockets as I slowly walked into the dim bookshelf-lined office. Lighting came from two desk lamps on either side of Andervender’s desk.
Beneath the aftershave reek was the scent of decaying books.
“Ah, there you are, Marian.” Andervender sat in a high-backed leather chair behind a mahogany desk, hands clasped together, laptop and papers neatly pushed to the side. “Please shut the door behind you.”
I closed the door, and walked as slowly as I dared toward his desk, studying the room.
There were no windows. Three filing cabinets took up the wall next to the door. On the bookshelves were religious books—Bibles, theological tomes, references, and who knew what.
Andervender waved a hand at the two leather chairs before his desk. “Please, Marian, have a seat.”
I avoided looking at his face as I sat, instead watching his hands. How I wish I never had to listen to another sermon of yours. How I wish I never had to see you again.
My silence got to him, for he tapped a silver pen against his desk blotter as he waited for me to speak. When it became clear I wouldn’t, he said, “You and your family have had quite a week.”
“Yes.” I looked at the shelf behind his desk with its Bibles of various sizes and colors.
“You’ve hurt you parents quite badly.”
No way was I responding to Andervender’s guilt bait. I eyed his laptop. It looked new, probably purchased in the last year or so.
Andervender steepled his fingers together. “Your parents have sacrificed much to bring you and Henry out here.”
I studied the glass-enclosed shelf above the Bibles. It held ceramic vases.
“Your mother tells me you asked to go to the Methodists.”
“Yes. I want to go to the nearest Methodist Church instead.”
“Would you mind telling me why?”
“It was my Grannie’s church.”
He shook his head sadly at me. “So many have lost their way from the Gospel, lost the gifts the Church once held. You would be lost there to God and Christ.”
I took a deep breath, gathering my strength, and shook my head in return. “No I wouldn’t.”
“You are mistaken.” He pointed his pen at me. “Almost all have lost the power of the Spirit, the power to heal your brother, the power to see the visions of God, to speak as the prophets spoke.” His voice rose in indignation. “Your parents have brought your brother to me to be healed, and by the power of the Spirit through me he shall be. Are you so enamored of Henry’s dependency on you that you would stand in the way of him being cured?”
I gripped the armrests, feeling the leather grow slick under my sweating palms. “That’s what you think.”
His voice boomed like thunder. “That’s what ‘I’ think! That’s all you can say to me on such a grave matter as your brother’s cure?”
I trembled, but made myself stare into his eyes, not saying another word. No excuses, no pleadings.
Andervender flung his pen down. It rolled off to clatter on the floor. His mask of kindly concern was gone, replaced with rage. “Your selfishness knows no bounds. I am very disappointed, but in time, you will come around. The truth will out, as Scripture shows.” He gave me a knowing smile as he reached a hand inside the central desk drawer. “I had a long talk with Mrs. Hawthorn about your life in Alexandria. I sensed, by the guidance of the Spirit, that there was much you’d kept hidden.” He pulled out a silver ring, rolling it between his thumb and fingers as he showed it to me. “Do you know what this is?”
My throat went dry.
“Well?” He held the ring out in his palm. Watching me, weighing me. “You do, don’t you? I can see it in your face. It’s a purity ring. But if I asked you to wear it, as a symbol of your pureness of mind and body and soul, you’d refuse, wouldn’t you? You’d say it was because you don’t believe in wearing such a ring, but we both know it’s nothing like that.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Trent Fenchel. Yes, I know his name. And his phone number. He remains angry about the way you dumped him.” Andervender dropped the ring onto the blotter. “You’re not a virgin.”
Humiliation and rage flooded within me. Any denial would sound weak to my own ears, let alone Andervender’s.
Andervender nodded. “I give you credit for not wasting my time with pathetic lies.” He scooped the ring back up and put it away. “Here are how things are going to be, Miss Marian. I shall not require you to wear a purity ring, for now, since you have much to atone and cleanse your soul for. You’ll go to Youth Group, stop the nonsense about leaving for another church, and not interfere as I heal your brother.”
“I must have misheard you. What did you just say?”
Andervender pinched the bridge of his nose. “Very well then. You can leave.”
I rushed out, feeling like I’d nearly been struck by lightning. When I threw open the Sunday school door, Mom took one look at me and said, “Marian, what’s wrong?”
Andervender came to his door, smiling, and called out to my mom, “Mrs. Hawthorn, may I have a moment of your time, please?”
I watched with dread as Mom got up and went into Andervender’s office. Andervender gave me a stern look, and shut the door.
The deep rumble of Andervender’s voice was muffled by the door. But I knew he’d decided to punish me by telling Mom about Trent. Waiting here was more than I could bear.
I said to Henry, “C’mon, let’s wait outside.” Henry swept the blocks back into the box without my help, then jumped up to follow me down the hall.
As we made our way through the curtains, Henry said, “Do we have come here again?”
“Probably.” I shoved open a glass door with my shoulder, and stumbled into the sunlight to warm up my chilled skin.
No matter how I tried, I couldn’t think of a way to head off the coming fight with Mom.
Henry sat on the shopping center’s curb and pointed out the circling pigeons to me.
Finally Mom came out, eyes red. She said not a word to me or Henry as she drove us home.
************** End of Part One. 23. *****************