“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, January 21, 2013

Chapter Eighteen, Part Two

           “What do I need to do?  How do I get forgiveness now that I’m a Level Three?”

            Pastor Simon paused again.  “First of all you need to pay the Children.”

            “How much?” Elizabeth asked as she pulled out her check book.

            “As much as you have.”  Pastor Simon didn’t so much as blink when he said this with the air of telling her that all she needed to do was donate a nickel.

            “But I’ve been working so hard for that money,” she argued.

            “If you are truly sorry and truly want to be forgiven, then you won’t be bothered by donating your money to a good cause.”

            It only took a minute for Elizabeth to write her savings over to the Children of the Rose and she handed the check to Pastor Simon with haste.

            “Now, to make sure that you are truly sorry and that the Devil isn’t speaking through you, you will now answer a few questions for me.  A test, if you will.”

            “I just had a test like that,” Elizabeth whispered.

            “If you are truly sorry, then that shouldn’t worry you.”

            Elizabeth sighed and nodded.

            “Please share with me the verse that explains why the women wear scarves in church and why the men lead the Children,” Pastor Simon began.

            “‘But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.  Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head.  But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.  For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.  For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.  For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.  Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.  For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.  Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.  For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.’  First Corinthians, chapter eleven, verses three through twelve,” she recited.  She didn’t even really know what she was saying, just repeating what was expected of her.  It wasn’t as though she understood the verse.  It was all a jumble of words in her mind and she was thankful it came out correctly.

            The questioning continued for hours and Elizabeth willed herself to stay awake, to keep answering the questions correctly.  She could feel her eyes falling out of focus, her body growing numb from sitting in the chair for so long, but she was determined to get past this test.

            After a while, Pastor Simon finally stopped and stared at Elizabeth.  “Well done, Elizabeth.  You should consider yourself forgiven.”

            Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief.

            “Now, Sandra approached me about setting you up with a man of the church,” Pastor Simon said.  Elizabeth raised her eyebrows, unsure of what to say to this.  “I agree with her.  I think it would be best for your personal spiritual journey, help you keep your mind from Derek Anderson.  I will, of course, assign you to a man much higher in the church than you are—he will be able to guide you better than Sandra has been able to.  She’ll still be your Rose Angel, but in your case serving a man of the church may be your best pathway to Heaven.”

            Elizabeth nodded her understanding, even though she didn’t really understand at all.

            “I have already spoken to my good friend Benjamin Karlisle.  He took a great interest in you at the retreat you went to at his home a couple months ago.  I think he would be the best match for you.”

            “Okay…is that all?” Elizabeth asked.

            “Make sure you pray an extra three hours tonight, just to make sure your sins are completely gone.”

            “Yes, sir.”  She stood and started to the door

            “I’ll have Sandra tell you when the retreat and ceremony is.”

            Elizabeth turned to face Pastor Simon.  “Ceremony?”

            “Marriage ceremony, Elizabeth.  You and Benjamin and the rest of the couples who have been paired recently.  It is a great honor to be married within the church, to be paired with a worthy partner to bring children into the Children.”

            Her eyes widened.  She was too young to get married.  But Pastor Simon waved her out of his office then and she couldn’t bring herself to argue it.


            The boxes have been stored in Liz’s and Jackie’s respective rooms.  Every member of the family has been cleaned and dressed in their best and now the house and party tent in the backyard are flooded with guests.  It’s like everyone has come out to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. McLancy’s anniversary.  Liz can’t help but feel that all of them are looking at her warily—maybe it’s because she hasn’t been around in ten years, but she thinks it’s more to do with the cult.

            She smiles a bit as she watches Eric with their daughter Sara.  She’s lucky and she knows that, but it’s bittersweet.  She wasn’t always this lucky.

            “Liz McLancy, look at you.”

            The voice startles Liz out of her thoughts and she turns to see one of the few people who truly know what’s been going through her head these last few days.  Morgan gives Liz a huge smile and embraces her tightly.

            “You look amazing.  Really.”

            Liz smiles slightly and shrugs.  “So do you.  Really.”

            Morgan furrows her eyebrows.  “Okay.  I give.  What’s wrong?”

            “Nothing.  I’m fine.”

            “You can’t lie to me and you know it.  What’s wrong?”

            Jackie looks over at the pair and comes to the rescue.  “Liz is just…thinking about…something we found this morning.”

            “Show me.”

            There’s no messing with Morgan when it comes to matters such as these, so in mere minutes, the three girls are hidden away in the attic and the two boxes have reemerged for Morgan to see.

            “These are from…wow…” she whispers, her eyes wide.  After a second, she looks up and asks, “You’ve been carrying these around all these years?”

            “No!” Jackie and Liz cry.

            “I can’t believe you kept all these,” Morgan muses, picking up my old Rose Bible.

            “You didn’t?” Jackie asks.

            “No, of course not.  Remember?  And I didn’t have as hard a time there as you did, Liz.  I threw out all my stuff.  I didn’t want the memories lingering.”  She studies the other two for a moment before adding.  “Maybe that’s why I’ve been able to stay around here for the last ten years and you haven’t.”

            “I doubt that, Morgan,” Liz sniffs.  “This is just stuff.  It doesn’t mean anything.”

            “Clearly it does, otherwise you wouldn’t be getting so upset about it.”

            “But we just found it today.  We haven’t seen it in years.”

            “It doesn’t matter.  You kept the stuff.  It’s followed you.  And I notice you’re still wearing your rings.”

            “On different fingers!”

            “But you’re wearing them!” Morgan says.  “That’s all that matters.  I haven’t seen mine in ten years, but you’ve seen it every day.  No wonder you can’t move on.”

            Liz rolls her eyes.  “Since when did you get all psychological?”

            “I’m not.  I just know what I went through, and what you went through, and that a lot of people who have gone through similar situations have had to get rid of all the physical memorabilia in order to move on.”  Morgan sighs and puts the lid back on Liz’s box.  “Besides, we all promised we were going to get on with our lives.”

            Liz takes the box away from Morgan and shoves it back into her room.  “I have gotten on with my life, Morgan.  It’s just the returning I’m having trouble with.”

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