“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, December 17, 2012

Chapter Seventeen, Part One

           Elizabeth started her first job a mere three days after graduation.  It was a job that Sandra had helped her find—a cashier in a small bookstore in the mall.  When Elizabeth had found out how interested Sandra was in helping her find a job, she had been incredibly confused.

            “Wouldn’t making money be greed?” she had asked.

            Sandra had shaken her head and answered, “Unfortunately, the world we live in is all about greed, and in order to survive in this society you have to have money.  You want extra spending money when you go off to Drighton in a few months, don’t you?”

            “Yeah, of course, but…”

            “Then stop worrying about it.  Besides, to make yourself feel better and be less greedy, you’ll donate most of your money to the church anyway.”

            Now Elizabeth was a week into her new job and loving every minute of it.  She couldn’t believe she was being paid to work with books—it seemed more of a luxury than a job.  Weren’t you supposed to hate your summer job?  Dread going into work with every fiber of your being?  Be counting down the days until you move back to school and don’t have to work there ever again?  Every person she had ever talked to about summer jobs had said this—that they hated working in retail, that people were stupid, that it was the worst possible job you could ever have.  It was supposed to be the reason you go to college, to avoid having to work in a job like this ever again.  In truth, at work was the happiest Elizabeth had felt outside of the church in months. 

            Now that she was working at the bookstore, she saw her family only a fraction of the time she had seen them before she joined the church.  Before graduation it had been more or less half-and-half, although usually the Children got a slightly bigger half.  Now she only saw her siblings and parents a couple hours a day.  Children of the Rose took up her evenings and most of the day on Sundays; much of the time she wasn’t at work or at worships, she was spending time with Aimee and trying to help her through all her firsts or she was at the make-up seminars with the other new Level Two Rose Angels.  Every time she got a paycheck, she signed over more than half of it to the Children.  It was overcoming greed, she had managed to convince herself.  It wasn’t like she really needed that much money anyway.  Weren’t college students supposed to be living in near poverty anyway?

            One thing that was nagging at her lately, though, was how little she had seen of Derek lately.  She saw him at a distance from time to time, so she knew he was still in the Children, but he hadn’t rejoined their baptism group yet.  Her curiosity was extinguished at one particular Wednesday evening service.  After so many weeks wondering where he was and why she hadn’t seen him around much, the two of them finally ran into each other after the service.  She looked to see that Sandra was distracted and pulled him off to one side of the atrium.

            “Where have you been?  I’ve been worried about you,” Elizabeth whispered.

            Derek stared intently at the floor and mumbled, “Why have you been worried?”

            “I…I like you,” she admitted lamely.

            “You shouldn’t be worried.  I can take care of myself.”

            “Then where have you been?  Why haven’t you been promoted?”

            Derek finally looked into her eyes.  She noticed a large bruise under one of his eyes.  “They don’t think I’m ready,” he answered.  “They say I’m still asking too many questions, not letting the group lead me.  They say if I promote now I might be a bad influence on the newly baptized.  They’re trying to keep me quarantined, as far away from the impressionable younger members as possible until I have truly seen the light.  I’ve been spending most of my time within the colony.  I’m not a resident, but I might as well be for all the time I have to spend there.”

            “It’s just for your own good,” she whispered, touching his face.

            “That’s what they keep telling us, huh?”  Derek gave a sharp laugh.  “I’m not so sure I believe that anymore.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I mean how can all this be for our own good?  I want to believe it, I really do, and I’m trying to, but it’s just so hard to see all this happening…to see what happens in the colony…and think that this is a good thing.” 

            Still touching his face, Elizabeth whispered, “Then why don’t you just leave?  Why don’t you just walk out and never come back, if you’re that miserable here?”  She blinked a couple times before adding, “I mean, I could never leave, but you could.”

            “I’d rather be miserable here than at home with my father.  I’d rather be hit by people who accept me than by an alcoholic.”

            Elizabeth raised her eyebrows.  “But, Derek…”

            He reached up and grabbed Elizabeth’s wrist, stopping her in mid-sentence.  “You shouldn’t be seen over here talking to me.  I don’t want them getting mad at you too.”  He gestured to his black eye.

            “It’s just for your own good,” she repeated, with much less conviction than before.

            “I like you too.  I don’t want you to get hurt, but I know you’re too far gone for me to convince otherwise.  If something should happen to me…”  He sighed.  “If something should happen to me, don’t cause a scene.  Not unless you’re ready to walk out of this place right now.  You don’t know what these people are capable of.”

            “What do you…?”

            “Just don’t cause a scene, okay?  Don’t cause a scene or leave.”

            “Elizabeth McLancy!”  The shout startled Elizabeth, who jerked her wrist out of Derek’s hand.  She turned to see Sandra, anger etched into her face, hands on hips, glaring at her so intently Elizabeth was pretty sure she might turn to stone right then and there.  Sandra strode over to Elizabeth, grabbed the wrist that Derek had just been holding, and dragged her toward the front door of the church.  “What on earth do you think you’re doing?!”

            “We were just talking!”

            Sandra dragged her all the way to the car and gave her a slap across the face.  Elizabeth recoiled from the sting.  “Snap out of it!”  Sandra grabbed her by the shoulders and forced Elizabeth to look at her.  “What have I told you about that boy?”

            “Don’t talk to him, don’t think about him,” Elizabeth mumbled, her eyes beginning to water.

            “So why were you just talking to him?!  I know you’re not stupid, so why do you have such a hard time grasping this concept?  He’s not pure yet, he’s not right for you.  Right now, the Devil is talking to him, trying to lead him down another path.  If you fraternize…”

            “We weren’t fraternizing!”

            Don’t interrupt.  If you fraternize with that boy, the Devil can find his way into you, make you impure.  You’ve been saved, Elizabeth.  You’re one of the Children now.  Why would you want to risk that?”

            “I…I don’t!”

            “Tonight, before you go to bed, you will pray for an extra five hours.”

            Elizabeth’s mouth dropped open in shock.  What?!

            “Yes, five hours.  That’s what happens when you don’t do as commanded to you by your Rose Angel and, by extension, by Pastor Simon.  You have disobeyed me and you need to get back on the right path, ask for God’s forgiveness.  Pray that he forgives you, that he gets you back on the right path and away from Satan.  Pray that you do well, so Pastor Simon may pair you up with a suitable man in the church.”  Sandra looked at Elizabeth intently, cocked her head to the side in thought.  “In fact, I’ll propose it to Pastor Simon myself.  If you want a proper Christian relationship, Pastor Simon will be able to set you up with a proper man, who is also a Rose.  If he thinks it’s a good idea to get you back on the right path, he’ll let you know.”

            If it was possible for Elizabeth’s mouth to drop open any further, it did right then.  “I don’t want a…”

            “Your behavior says otherwise.”  Sandra let go of Elizabeth’s shoulders now and patted her on the arm in a much more loving manner than how she had been acting up until now.  “It’s for your own good, Elizabeth.  I think this will be good for you.”

            Elizabeth didn’t know what to say, so she just stood there and stared at Sandra for a while longer until Sandra grabbed her arm again and led her back into the church to find Aimee.

No comments:

Post a Comment