Well, I figured it’s high time to start another story. I’ve been away from fiction writing for too long, for too long… what better way to get my writing muscles working again than to tackle this… last story in the queue? Yes, it’s true. When not hanging with monkeys, hangingwithmonkeys sometimes thinks of story prompts. This is one of them:
The human spirit, will power, love, romance, passion , longing, inspiration.
So once that’s out of the way, there will be zero story requests left in my queue, which means you’ll (I’m addressing the reader directly here) have to come up with some, or I’ll have to think of my own ideas. Which is not entirely impossible, but not the point of these stories.
Petra and Paul
“Dee… could you help me fix up my hair?” Petra asked.
“What, it’s not for that stupid church of yours, is it? I mean, really now, I don’t see what you’re doing there anyway. All this talk about salvation and what not… it’s all a load of…”
“Dee! You shouldn’t say such things. I just want to look pretty, is all,” said Petra, but the blush on her face revealed that her sister hadn’t been too far off the mark.
Dee shook her head. “It’s not right, you know. You and me, we ain’t religious people. You know that.” She sighed, seeing the determination on her sister’s face. “Oh, very well, I’ll do your hair. You old nitwit.”
Dee began brushing her sister’s long, wavy, golden locks. She, who had springy red hair that bore a close resemblance to the straw in the rabbit’s cage, had always envied Petra’s good looks. Dee looked at her sister’s face in the mirror. Those bright blue eyes, the impressively long and straight nose, the ever so slight flush on her otherwise pale cheeks… Petra was the world’s most beautiful creature, Dee knew that much. Envious as she was though, she wasn’t jealous. It was more of an admiration, a respectful recognition of the distance between them. It was that distance that brought them so close together. Dee knew that she could never become like her sister, and that absolute, rock-solid certainty was like a rock, pinnacling out of the sea, like a living, breathing compass needle that always pointed up at the Pole Star, no matter what.
But now the compass had started to become misaligned. A few months ago, an old lady called on their house, selling handicraft, made down at the parish hall. Dee wasn’t at home – otherwise she would have talked Petra out of it and the lady out of their home – and Petra really liked the trinkets, not to mention the lady. They started talking, and one thing begat another. Petra began reading the Bible, and worse still, she started visiting the local church. Dee, being furiously irreligious – hers was the type of brain that seemed incapable of the notion of anything higher – saw her sister slipping away from her, and she didn’t like it.
She still did Petra’s hair and clothes though, even if it was to make her pretty to go to church. It was a weird sort of status quo they lived in, neither wanting to push things so far as to alienate the other completely. For the five years they’d been living together since their parents died, they succeeded.
* * *
Today was the first day in my new parish. I felt a little nervous, which the bishop warned me about. But, following his advice, I just prayed and prayed before writing my first sermon, and I think it went well. Although I have to admit, at one point my old weakness came back up again, when catching this girl’s eyes. What a stunner… when the congregation left, I took care to avoid her. I should have shaken her hand, confronted my fear… like people with ara… fear of spiders do. They deliberately let those spiders walk over their hands, confront their nightmares, their demons. Maybe I should do the same. Put myself up for temptation and withstand it. Like Joseph, with Potiphar’s wife. See how I hold up. After all, I am a man of the cloth. I need to set the example. No room for weakness here. And she’s just a woman. Nothing more.
* * *
“So, how was church?” Dee asked, chewing on the contents of a packet of crisps as she lay sprawled on the sofa in front of the live television registration of Ascot.
“Very uplifting. You should try it.”
“The priest seemed a bit nervous though. He looked at me once, all funny. I reckon maybe he had seen me before or something.”
“Ah,” Dee replied, her intonation clearly indicating that her interest was waning fast, although Petra did not, or did not want to, pick up on the hint.
“Yes… and the oddest thing, when I left, I wanted to introduce myself to him, since he’s new and all, but I couldn’t find him. Oh well, there’s always next week, isn’t there?”
“Yes… there’s always next week.”
* * *
My second Sunday sermon. Things went well, I think. I read the first part of 2 Samuel 12. Interesting to note the analogy of stealing sheep, by the way. Almost makes it seem as if it only matters if a woman is married. It’s not really adultery otherwise anyway, now is it? Found out the girl’s name too, by the way. She’s called Petra. Interesting. Named after Saint Peter… Peter and Paul, Petra and Paul. Now I wonder… perhaps we’re made for each other. Maybe I shouldn’t be so stuck-up about all this. Just ask her to go out with me, why not? No, no, better not. I’ll give it some time. Next week maybe.
* * *
A week later, Petra went to her tenth sermon, and Paul held his third. He was really getting into things, speaking of the love for God’s Word, painting it like a beautiful woman, like the Shulamite from the Song of Songs. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of Petra. Was it his imagination, or was she blushing?
He didn’t imagine it. Although he wasn’t speaking to her, she felt as if he was describing her, when he talked about that nose, like the tower of Lebanon, her lips like scarlet ribbon, her lips. Yes, with each passing word, she just knew that it was her breasts he was longing to rest his face upon. She felt his longing, it crackled in the very air like lightning. And she didn’t like it. She just wanted to feel chaste, damn it all!
That evening, Petra and Dee were dining together. Fish, chips, stale bread, and cheap box wine. Nothing special, but it sufficed.
Dee dipped her bread in some vinegar, and pointed the slice at her sister. “You’re thinking.”
“No, don’t try to deny it. I can sense such things, you know. It’s… a sisterly… bond, kind of thing.”
Petra looked at her plate, which still had half a fish on it, then up at her sister. She shook her head. “I’m not thinking of anything.” And she stood up from the table.
“Here, aren’t you gonna eat that?” Dee asked, as she filled another cup. “Well, then don’t mind if I help myself, love.”
* * *
This is it. Got a phone call today, and it was from her, I just know it. Strange, now that I think of it. Haven’t actually heard her speak before. But oh, that voice! To die for. So husky, yet so smooth… Anyway, dear diary, I must check myself a little longer while I write this to you. She told me she wanted to confess. Poor child, mustn’t know very much about our church. Then again, who does, really. I actually told her to come to the vicarage tomorrow. Tomorrow! Oh my, I can hardly contain myself at the thought of those silky, white legs, walking all the way up here to confess her sins. Oh God, the thought alone turns me on so bad.
Five minutes later, Paul returned to his diary.
But I must be strong. Prayer, that’s the key. At least, that’s what the bishop always says. Yes, prayer and temptation. How can I know if I would reject the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden if I do not put it before me? Yes, yes, I must go through with it tomorrow, and be strong. God will keep me strong, I know it.
* * *
“Are you going to church on Wednesdays now too?”
“No,” Petra said, avoiding her sister’s gaze. “I just… have an appointment at the vicarage.”
“With that new priest guy?”
“Only to confess!”
Petra started at how defensive she sounded.
“Okay…” Dee said. “If you must. But I don’t like it. And… do be careful.”
* * *
So… the girl came, and I was weak. That’s all there is to it, really. The worst thing is I’m kicking myself not because I, the confessor, turned into a sinner, but because I overplayed my hand. There she was, in her lovely, white, silky blouse… the two top buttons were intentionally undone, I just know it. To tempt me. And I wanted to be tempted. I wanted to be tempted so bad. Too bad, really.
When she took me into her confidence, told me all about her past… transgressions… oh, how it turned me on. How she turned me on. There just wasn’t anything I could do. I felt as if I put out my hand to Peter, and instead of walking him back to the boat, I drowned with him. And I let it all happen.
But I went too far. Damn it. All she had to was kneel and open her mouth. Act of worship indeed. But she saw it coming. Treacherous little… women. What are they good for, after all? Trust women to fall for something stupid like a talking snake offering an apple. Wouldn’t surprise me if that whole Lilith story turned out to be true as well.
And now I’ve met my own Lilith. Just one moment of weakness, one short burst of happiness, but she didn’t even give me that. Walked out on me, as if I were one of her ex-lovers, boyfriends, flings… clients? Well, I don’t need her. And I don’t need this stupid parish either. Problem is, I have nothing else. Nothing to run to, yet everything to run from. Stuck between walls that close in, waiting for the next serpent to enter this flock, ready to strike at me. I swear, one day I won’t be denied, and what will happen then? I can only guess. And I don’t like the images I see before me.
But what can one do? I can’t help it that I was born as a man, throbbing with testosterone. I can’t help it.
Paul looked up from his notebook, up at the ceiling.
“It was you who created me this way! It was you, you hear me?”
And he started to sob.
* * *
“He did what? That little… prick! Why, I ought to chop it right off!”
“No, Dee, no! It’s bad enough as it is… you know, I honestly thought… I thought, well… these, these religious type of men… Christians, they call themselves, right? They should know better.”
“Listen, men are men. So you’re sure nothing happened, right? Sometimes our thoughts blur in situations like these…”
Petra looked at her sister firmly, a hint of admiration peeping through in her look. “I’m positive. I ran like…”
“Well… well, yes. As soon as I realized what he had in mind, I went and didn’t look back.”
A tear appeared in Petra’s eyes. And another.
Dee took her sister’s hand. “Oh, darling you… how I’ve missed you.”
“I know. I should never have gone to… to that wretched place. But that old lady, she was so awfully nice.”
“They always are.”
“I mean, what am I to do? I can’t go back to living my former life, I just can’t.” She clasped the little silver crucifix around her neck. “And I don’t want to leave Him.”
“You don’t have to.”
“But where do I go?”
Dee took a deep breath. “Listen. Maybe you don’t need to go anywhere. It’s like… it’s like buying something from a store, see? Like, fruits, vegetables, I don’t know. If you go to one shop, and the shopkeeper is rude to you, you go to another shop. Doesn’t change anything about the product.”
“So… so you’re saying… I need to look for another church?”
Dee shrugged. She did not reply, allowing her sister to finish the train of thought.
After pondering a few moments, Petra arrived at Dee’s intended conclusion. “But what… what if all the shopkeepers are like that?”
A big smile appeared on Dee’s face. She nodded enthusiastically. “Then you just grow your own food.”
“But… I’m worried… will it be as good as the things you buy at the shop?”
“Darling,” Dee said, leaning forward. “It will be better. So much better. Now, all this talk of growing your own food has made me think… I’ve got some money put aside. How about we get ourselves an allotment?”
“You mean that?”
“Sure I do. I think it would be nice, the two of us together, enjoying all that nature has to give us.”
“Yes… enjoying the fruits of creation together… yes, yes, I like that! Oh, Dee, I love you so much…”
Dee smiled as her sister hugged her. “And hey,” she said, “while we’re doing our garden, you could tell me about this God of yours, eh? Who knows, I may even begin to like him, if he gives us some lovely strawberries and cabbages and…”
They both laughed as they looked into each other’s eyes.
* * *
Later that year, Paul was excommunicated, thrown into Satan’s welcoming arms. Around the same time, Dee had a religious epiphany while eating home-grown parsnips with her sister.