The Christmas break had ended. The day Jackie went back to Drighton was a hard one for Liz. Jackie stood at the bottom of the stairs, her suitcase sitting beside her, and the family gathered around. Her father stood nearby, spinning his keys on his right finger. Everyone in the family except Liz gave Jackie her space. Liz kept close to her older sister and tried to ignore the fact that the rest of their siblings were standing several feet away, watching them warily. Their brothers and sisters just didn’t know how to approach them anymore.
“I’m going to miss you,” Liz whispered as she gave Jackie a hug good-bye. She had changed too, over the last couple weeks of being in the Children of the Rose. It wasn’t as drastic as Jackie’s change, yet, but a change was certainly evident. Her family couldn’t understand how quickly this had happened. Her wardrobe reflected that of Jackie’s, her hair always pulled back in a French braid. The vegan diet had set in almost immediately after that first seminar. She had found herself subconsciously repeating “It is right to be vegan, the outsiders are wrong” in her head several days after that lesson, and even now she would start writing it against her will in her Rose notebook.
“We’ll talk on the phone every night. And, besides, you don’t need me around. You have Sandra, Delia, and Morgan all here to look out for you. They’re your sisters in the Rose now, and you know that bond is just as strong as ours,” Jackie said, giving Liz’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
“I know…” Liz mumbled. “I’m just so nervous…”
“You’ll be fine. I’ll give you a call when I get back to school.” Jackie smiled at her then turned to address the rest of the family.
“I’m sure we’ll talk,” she said coldly.
“Kids, say good-bye to your sister,” Mom said, the worried look returning to her face.
The siblings, though, were clearly nervous to approach Jackie. Several seconds after their mother told them to say their farewells, because no one else was stepping forward, Eva walked up to her oldest sister and gave her a stiff hug. The others followed suit, the hugs just as stiff. It was as though they were saying good-bye to a complete stranger, not a sister.
The staring resumed. Liz clutched to Jackie’s hands and the younger five kids stood away from the pair. No one seemed to know what to do or say. The silence stretched to breaking point before their father picked up Jackie’s suitcase and finally broke the silence.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah,” Jackie answered shortly. Before she walked out the door, however, she looked at Liz again and said, “I promise I’ll call,
Stop worrying.” Elizabeth
As soon as the door closed behind her sister, Liz looked around at her family, who were all staring at her now. “I’m going to my room,” she announced for no particular reason and started up the stairs.
“She’s gotten so weird,” she heard Eva say. Liz couldn’t figure out if Eva had intended for her to hear this, but she heard it nonetheless. She chose to ignore her younger sister—it wasn’t worth honoring that comment with a response.
Once she got to the top of the attic stairs, she shut the door carefully behind her and leaned against it. “I can’t do this,” she announced to the lonesome area. “I can’t do this without Jackie.” She walked to her bedroom and closed that door as well before settling down at her desk. Best to have a double barrier between her and her siblings than none at all.
She shifted some things around on her desk, looking for her journal. It had gotten more cluttered since her baptism—with the late services, she barely had time to finish her over-Christmas-break homework assignments, let alone to clean up her room. She had been keeping the door to her room shut lately. She knew if her mom saw how messy her room had gotten, she would never hear the end of it. Not that she was concerned about what her mom thought. After all, the most recent seminar lesson had been on just that. The Bible verse still echoed in her head—it was written in her Rose notebook and marked in the Bible Sandra had given her. Pastor Simon had repeated it numerously at the seminar, she and the other new members had repeated it just as many times. It was engraved in her mind and she spoke it out loud to her bedroom for reassurance.
“‘Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.’ Daniel, chapter twelve, verse ten.”
Simply saying those words aloud calmed Liz’s nerves and she breathed a sigh of relief before pulling her journal out from under all her Children of the Rose memorabilia.
Jackie’s gone. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m so distant from the rest of the family—not that this is terribly different from how things were before, but there’s an even bigger gap. They don’t understand the word of Pastor Simon and the Children of the Rose. They don’t understand what I’m going through, what it feels like to be baptized and pure again. They just don’t understand.
We had service this morning. I’ve never felt as enlightened as I have over the last couple weeks. I feel so blessed that Jackie introduced me to this amazing group of people. I’m blessed to know Sandra and Delia and Morgan and Pastor Simon. They are all wonderful people.
I just wish my family understood how this has changed me for the better. But they are just too closed-minded.
Liz shut the journal and stared at the wall. Noise from downstairs penetrated the two doors she had closed. Her younger siblings were arguing—again. She couldn’t hear exactly what was being said, but she could hear the yelling and the screaming of the muffled voices. And for the first time in her life, she truly didn’t care.