“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

~*~Ecclesiastes 9:11~*~

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chapter Nine, Part One

          Elizabeth stared into the mirror, tongue half sticking out, pulling her hair back into a French braid.  She realized that over the last three months of being a member of the Children of the Rose, she had become incredibly skilled at French braiding her own hair.  She picked up her scarf and fastened it carefully onto her head.  She could hear her family milling around downstairs.  She and her mother had barely talked since her visit to Jacqueline at Drighton three days ago.  Finally ready, Elizabeth tucked her house key into the pocket of her long, brown corduroy skirt, left her room, and started downstairs.

            As she walked past the rooms of her siblings, she stared pointedly at the floor.  Elizabeth was determined to avoid any interaction.  If she was able to avoid interaction, she wouldn’t be tempted to argue.

            “‘Keep thy tongue from evil,’” Elizabeth muttered to herself, “‘and thy lips from speaking guile.’  Psalms, chapter thirty-four, verse thirteen.”

            At the sound of Elizabeth murmuring Bible verses under her breath, Evalynne stuck her head out her bedroom door.  “Seriously?  There isn’t anyone listening to your creepy evangelical babblings out here, so why the hell are you still quoting Bible verses?”

            Elizabeth picked a spot on the floor and continued to stare, although she stopped walking.  “We should remember Bible verses at all times during the day, whether we’re talking to others or not.  Quoting Bible verses to myself allows me to focus on the path.”

            Evalynne stared at Elizabeth for a few seconds, as though trying to decide if her sister was being serious, then she rolled her eyes.  “You’re weird.”  With that, she left her room, pushed past Elizabeth, and went downstairs.

            Following in Evalynne’s wake, Elizabeth walked down the spiral staircase, careful not to step on any squeaky boards that might draw more attention to her.  By the time she got to the bottom, she heard a car honk in the driveway, and she headed purposefully toward the door.  At that exact moment, her mother showed up in the front hallway.

            “Where are you going?” Mom asked.

            “I have a youth group meeting at church,” Elizabeth answered quietly, staring at the door knob. “I don’t know what time I’ll be back.”

            She didn’t even wait to hear her mother’s response, just opened the door and left.


            Once again, all the Level Ones and their Rose Angels were crammed into the same small room in the church building.  It was still devoid of furniture and clocks.  Elizabeth, Sandra, Morgan, and Delia found seats near the center of the room and opened their Rose notebooks.  Elizabeth noticed hers was almost half full and Sandra caught her flipping through the remaining pages, counting.

            “I know.  It’s amazing how much we learn at this church, isn’t it?” Sandra said with a smile.  “I’ve been here for about seven months and I’ve already gone through two notebooks.  But it’s not supposed to be easy to get into Heaven.”

            Elizabeth returned the smile, nodded, and flipped to the first unused page in her notebook, ready to write down what was instructed tonight.  She looked around the room and noticed Derek sitting a few feet behind her.  She turned and waved.

            “It’s good to see you here again!” Elizabeth said, feeling truthfully cheerful for the first time since leaving her bedroom earlier that evening.

            Derek shrugged in response and said, “I was told to come, that everyone was coming, so I came.” He opened his arms.  “I am a sheep.”

            This made Elizabeth laugh, but she suddenly felt a sharp jab in her side and turned to see Sandra giving her a disapproving look.

            “You shouldn’t get too emotionally attached to him.  You don’t need a boyfriend right now—it opens you up further to temptation and sin.  And particularly Derek…as I said before, he’s a bad influence.  You’ll know when it’s time for you to get a partner,” Sandra said.

            “A partner?” asked Elizabeth, raising her eyebrows.

            “You know…a husband.  A man of the church to serve Christ together, bring more children into the church family.”

            Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide.  “I’m not ready to be married yet.”

            “That’s not for you to decide.”

            Elizabeth opened her mouth to respond to this—since when had it not been for her to decide when and if to get married—but was cut off by Pastor Jeffrey walking into the room.

            “Good evening, Children,” Pastor Jeffrey greeted with a warm smile.

            “Good evening, Pastor Jeffrey,” the whole room responded.

            Pastor Jeffrey handed a stack of small white papers to one member sitting along the wall.  “Please take a strip of paper and pass the rest along to your neighbor.  Make sure everyone has one.  We’ll get to their purpose in a moment.”

            He watched as everyone passed the papers around the room.  When Elizabeth got hers, she noticed that it was completely blank.  It was nothing more than a white strip of paper.  It held no rules, Bible verses, names, nothing.

            When each member in the room had received a strip of paper, Pastor Jeffrey nodded, satisfied, and set the leftovers on the floor at the front of the room.

            “As you have been taught since your baptisms,” Pastor Jeffrey began, “trust is one of the most important facets of being a member of the Children of the Rose.  If we do not trust one another, we cannot go forward on our path of light.  We must trust one another with our love, our lives, and our happiness.  We must understand that what we do, we do to save each other.  At your baptisms, you were asked several times to profess your trust in not only your fellow members, but in the church as a whole.  Tonight, we put that trust to the test.”

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