“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~*~

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter Nineteen, Part One

          Elizabeth didn’t tell her family about Benjamin.  She didn’t want to deal with the raised eyebrows, the disappointed stares, the shocked faces.  It was hard enough for Elizabeth to digest what Sandra had gotten her into, what Pastor Simon had told her.  The last thing she needed on top of that realization was her family.  For this reason, she took to locking herself in her room even more often than usual, if that was possible.  She ignored phone calls, she stopped eating downstairs, she didn’t answer when her siblings pounded on her door or yelled at her or tried to get her attention.  Her father had attempted taking down her door, but that had failed miserably.  Elizabeth still hadn’t emerged from her room and she ignored everyone as actively as before.  She even took to avoiding Jacqueline.  She didn’t want anyone to know what was going on, not yet.  Instead, she sat on her bed and read her Bible and prayed and waited until Sandra would tell her when the retreat would be.

            One night, she flipped absent-mindedly through her Rose notebook, only half reading the notes she had made.  The phone rang, but she ignored it.  Let someone else get it, she thought and turned another page.  Staring back at her was the Bible verse she had copied down and highlighted so long ago that she had intended on asking Sandra about:

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

            She still didn’t get it, but instead of pondering on it like she had done before, Elizabeth flipped to the next page and moved on.  She figured the meaning would come to her eventually.

            Someone stormed up the attic stairs and Elizabeth closed her eyes, willing whoever it was to go away and leave her alone.  Instead, whoever it was pounded on her currently unlocked bedroom door.  And kept pounding.  And wouldn’t stop.  She wasn’t sure why the intruder didn’t just open the door and come in, but she guessed that this was another futile attempt to annoy her into active conversation.  Mostly to disprove this theory, Elizabeth let the pounding go on for a few minutes before she acknowledged it.

            “Whaaat?” she finally sighed, just loud enough for the intruder to hear her.

            The door swung open and there stood Evalynne, her face red with annoyance.  She barged in and went for Elizabeth’s phone, which was no longer there.

            “Where the hell is your phone?” Evalynne growled, glaring daggers at her older sister.

            Elizabeth didn’t even look up from her notebook.  “I donated it to the church.  I overcame materialism.”

            Evalynne blinked a few times and shook her head as though she was trying to figure out if this was really happening.  “How about you overcome weirdness?”

            “What do you want?”  Elizabeth didn’t even raise her voice.  She merely continued talking in monotone.

            “I can’t believe you donated your phone!” Evalynne cried, and then she looked around at Elizabeth’s walls.  “Did you donate every single thing you own?”

            “More or less.”

            “There are no words.”

            “You wanted something.  What was it?”

            This snapped Evalynne out of her fascination with Elizabeth’s room and she returned to her glaring.  “The stupid phone’s for you.”  She turned and began leaving the room.

            “Who is it?”

            Evalynne stopped, turned slowly to face her sister, who was still not looking up, and said in an icy voice.  “What?”

            “Who.  Is.  On.  The.  Phone.”

            “I’m not your secretary, Liz!” Evalynne yelled.  “You’ve been avoiding phone calls from everyone, just get over whatever funk you’re in!  It’s driving me crazy!”

            Elizabeth still didn’t look up and still didn’t raise her voice.  “Honestly, I don’t care.  I’ll speak to who I want to speak to.  Now who’s on the phone?”

            Evalynne glared at the top of Elizabeth’s head for a few more seconds before growling, “Sandra.”

            Finally, Elizabeth closed the notebook, got off the bed, and walked down the stairs.  Evalynne chased after her.

            “Oh, so you’ll talk to Sandra, but you won’t talk to anyone else?” Evalynne argued.

            “That’s not true,” Elizabeth said, still not making eye contact with Evalynne as she walked down the second set of stairs to the ground floor.

            “It is true.  You barely talk to anyone in this family any more—this is the most I’ve heard you speak in five days.”

            “That’s not true.”

            “Your old crazy friends—you remember Lena, Grace, and Ellen, right?—have all called over the last few days.  Apparently for some reason they’re still worried about you and want to be your friends, god knows why.  And yet, you wouldn’t talk to any of them.  Relatives have called.  Every other person in this house has talked to them except for you.”

            “I talk to Jacquline.  I talk to Sandra.  I talk to Delia, Morgan, and Aimee.  That’s not talking to no one,” Elizabeth pointed out as she reached the phone.

            “So you’ll talk to your creepy church friends, but you won’t talk to us?”

            Elizabeth picked up the phone and put it to her ear.  “I’m on the phone,” she whispered at her sister.

            Evalynne glared once more and stomped away.

            “Sandra?” Elizabeth said into the phone.

            “Your retreat is on Saturday.  I’ll pick you up at eight in the morning.  It’s an overnight thing, so be prepared for that,” Sandra announced.

            “Okay, I will.”

            She heard Sandra sigh over the phone.  Elizabeth, I know you’re a little mad at me, but I’m really quite proud of you.  It’s an honor for you to be betrothed to a man of such rank in the church.  If you do as he says, your way to Heaven will pretty much be paved for you.”

            “I’m not mad at you,” Elizabeth admitted.  “I’m just…nervous.  I didn’t expect to be doing this at, you know, seventeen.”

            “Yeah, it’s not conventional in the outside world, but it’s really not that unusual for female Roses to be married off when they’re young.  This will be good for you.  Don’t worry about it.  I’ll be at the ceremony…I’ll be your witness.”

            Elizabeth squinted, trying to decipher what Sandra meant.  “Like…a maid of honor?”

            “Sure, something like that.”  There was a pause.  “So we’re okay?  You’re okay?”

            “We’re okay.”  Elizabeth looked over toward Evalynne, who noticed Elizabeth looking at her and rolled her eyes in response.  “I’m fine.  Promise.”

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