Liz blinked rapidly when the service finally came to an end. She was pretty sure that she hadn’t fallen asleep, but she was dazed all the same. Pastor Simon, it transpired, talked in an incredibly soothing voice. She had lost complete track of time during the sermon, which had taken up most of the service. As she, Jackie, and Jackie’s friends shuffled back out of the pew to join the flow of people back out into the atrium, she tried to figure out how long she’d been sitting on that hard pew. From the numbness in her lower back, Liz guessed that they had been sitting there for at least a good hour and a half.
Pastor Simon had lectured on the importance of faith, of suffering persecution from those who don’t understand the faith. Even though the subject itself was dull in thought, Liz noticed that she didn’t find listening to Pastor Simon speak as dull as she had found listening to other sermons at other churches. For once in her life, Liz found herself speechless and barely cynical. For some reason, she didn’t find this service, this church itself, as boring as she had found others. In fact, she actually found herself feeling a little uplifted. She didn’t know if she could quite explain how this had happened so fast, but she just found Pastor Simon interesting to listen to. She found him easy to believe.
“Did you like it,
?” Heather asked suddenly, looking
over her shoulder at Liz. Elizabeth
“Yeah, actually, I did,” she answered. Heather smiled.
“You should come again,” Jackie suggested, shooting a quick glance at Heather. “It gets better each time.” The others nodded in agreement.
Liz shrugged as they entered the atrium again. “Yeah, maybe.”
There was now a large table in the middle of the room, covered with a paper table cloth. Coffee and lemonade, as well as various pastries, sat there. The group made their way over to the table. Jackie handed Liz a cup of lemonade and a danish, picking up the same for herself.
“Now, we mingle,” Jackie announced, grabbing Liz’s arm and leading her over to another group. In this group there was also a girl wearing a plain black scarf, like Liz, and two girls with scarves like Jackie’s.
“Hey, Jacqueline!” the taller of the two girls with green scarves said. This girl also looked to be Jackie’s age, with a black braid trailing down her back.
“Hey, Delia, Sandra,” Jackie answered, nodding to these two girls in turn. “This is my younger sister, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, this is Delia and Sandra. They both go to school and church down here, but they’ve visited the Drighton colony a couple of times. That’s how I met them.”
“And this is Morgan Denison,” Sandra said, motioning to the girl in the black scarf. “She’s eighteen and a senior at
where I graduated from. We know each
other from there.” Weston Academy
“You guys should talk,” Jackie suggested. “You probably have a lot in common.”
Liz smiled at Morgan, and Morgan reluctantly returned the smile. “Did you like the service?” asked Liz as soon as the other three had started talking about a youth meeting of some sort.
“It was…different,” Morgan shrugged. “Not quite as uptight as I’d expect from a church, I guess. So, yeah, I guess I liked it. You?”
Liz nodded. “It’s way different from the church my family sometimes goes to.”
“Do you think you’re going to be coming back?” Morgan whispered, leaning closer. “Sandra has already invited me back, but I think I’d be more comfortable if I knew there’d be another visitor here too.”
Liz barely thought before she answered. She liked this place. It was so welcoming. “Yeah, I’ll probably be back.”
Jackie nodded to something Delia said and then pulled her watch out of her purse. Her eyes widened. Liz squinted at her sister, because she hadn’t noticed her take off her watch to put in her purse, nor was she sure why Jackie had felt the need to do this.
“We should probably get going. It’s almost noon and mom said lunch is at twelve-thirty.”
Liz nodded, waved farewell to Sandra, Delia, and Morgan and followed her sister out of the church.
I don’t know why I like the church, I’m not going to lie. I don’t know if it’s because Jackie’s there or if it’s how interesting Pastor Simon is to listen to. The people that I met were so interesting too, and kind. And they were all so confident and sure in their beliefs. It’s comforting to be around people who aren’t my siblings or always involved in drama.
Liz stopped writing in her journal. It was only a few days after her visit to the church and she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She heard someone enter the attic.
“Sweetie?” Mom asked, tapping lightly on the door frame. “There are some girls here to see you. They’re downstairs.”
Liz raised her eyebrows, closed her journal, and followed her mother downstairs. In the front hallway stood Sandra, Delia, Morgan, and Jackie, all chatting. Delia’s black hair and Sandra’s red hair were clearly visible without their scarves, although still in braids, and they wore long denim skirts and sweaters like Jackie. Morgan stood out in this group—her shoulder length light blonde hair was free from a braid and she wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a blue sweatshirt.
There you are!” Sandra cried. Elizabeth
Jackie turned and grinned at Liz. She could feel eyes on her, that feeling in the pit of her stomach that made her think someone was watching her. Turning her head slightly to the right and, sure enough, she could see the five pairs of eyes belonging to her siblings peaking around the family room wall. Why can’t they just mind their own business? Liz thought, before turning back to the girls standing in front of her.
“What’s up?” she asked, as casually as possible. In fact, she was mostly confused as to what they were all doing here. It seemed incredibly random.
The three church members glanced at each other.
Sandra shrugged. “We heard you had a good time on Sunday. We wanted to take Morgan out so she could learn more about us and us about her.”
Delia cut in, “And then we thought, why not invite Jacqueline and Elizabeth to join us?”
Jackie turned to Liz. “You want to? No pressure. We’re just going to hang out at the mall.”
Liz looked at Morgan, whose eyes looked pleading.
“Sure,” Liz answered. “I just need to throw on some shoes and grab my purse.” She began heading toward the stairs. Jackie followed.
“Me too,” she announced. “We’ll be right back.”
The two girls entered the attic room and pulled shoes out from under the futon. As they began tying their laces, Liz asked a question that had been bothering her since attending church two days before.
“Why do all your friends use your full name? And mine?”
Jackie sighed. “Names are God-given. He didn’t name me Jackie or you Liz. He told our parents to name us Jacqueline and Elizabeth. Even for people with names passed down through generations, there had to be some point of time when the name started being used. When a name just ‘comes’ to an expecting parent, whether they just think it’s pretty or whatever, that’s God’s work. The Children of the Rose, we believe in using, and respecting, our God-given names.”
Liz squinted as she grabbed her purse off the floor. And then she shrugged. It was weird that this church would be so particular about names, but she hadn’t ever been very religious before. Everyone had their beliefs, maybe this was just this group’s. She didn’t feel like she had any right to judge them for that—no matter how weird their beliefs might seem to her.