Copyright 2016 Britt DeLaney
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This one is for Pastor Al, for his untiring work against the natural inclinations of my soul (and body). Sorry that didn’t go so well for you.
“A secret is a powerful thing,” he said.
“What! What did you say?” Her hand went automatically to her chest, a southern affectation she couldn’t have stopped if she’d tried.
“I’m just ruminating on the task before us, Lydia. It lies heavy on my heart.”
“Task?” She managed to squeak.
“Woman, where is your head? I’m talking about the prayer meeting. And since you went and invited yourself along, I’d‘ve thought you’d be a bit more interested and prayerful.”
“Oh. Oh, yes, Albert. I am prayerful tonight. Very prayerful. I know you’ve got some rough days ahead.”
It was a rainy Friday evening in Waxahachie, Texas, and the lights in the little church were barely visible through the downpour. Pastor Albert Purifoy shook out his umbrella in the foyer, then headed into the auditorium where the others were waiting.
“Evenin’ Brother Jesse, Brother Billy.”
They nodded back in reply, Billy too busy digging something out of his ear to do more and Jesse wasn’t one for words, anyhow.
“Where’s Wendell?” asked the Pastor.
“He’s in the bathroom. He had chili.” Billy went back to digging in his ear. Brother Wendell made his appearance a few moments later, taking a seat with the others and offering a perfunctory nod. With a similar nod to her husband, Lydia moved into the pew behind them all.
“I’ll just take a seat back here, if it’s all the same to you gentlemen.”
“Now, Lydia, we’ve been over this – “
Lydia Purifoy, size four foot, eleven inches tall, pulled herself up to her full height of five feet (when wearing her Naturalizer shoes) and stared her husband down.
“Albert, I told you, the women need representation here tonight.”
“Lydia, the Bible says that a wife must be submissive to her husband. Now go on home and I’ll let you know what the men have decided when I get there.”
“The Bible also says we are one in the family of God.”
Albert puffed up his chest, which was impressive, considering his girth. “And need I remind you of First Timothy, Chapter 2, verse 11? ‘Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.’”
“I didn’t say I was here to take over the meeting, Albert. I’m just saying it might be…helpful to y’all if you have a woman’s point of view on things during your discussions. I’ll be quiet as a churchmouse ‘till I’m called on. I promise.”
Albert finally remembered that they had an audience, so he gave his wife a brief nod and a long warning glare. She smiled politely and took her seat.
“Now then,” said Albert, “as the deacons of the New Zion Abundant Life Church, you men are my right hand. These last few years have been hard, preparing for this day, but now that it’s here, we have a decision to make.”
The men all looked solemnly at each other. Well, all except Billy. That ear was still bothering him. Wendell thought it prudent to speak up, since it appeared that no one else would.
"Pastor, are we absolutely sure about the date? Not that I'm doubting the scripture -" he added hastily, "I just that we'll get a lot of guff if we're off a bit."
“Now Wendell, I’ve been over this. There is no other way to interpret the scriptures that the Lord led me to. He gave me those interpretations. The world will end in exactly sixty-two days.”
“Of course, Pastor. Of course you’re right.”
The men sat in silence for a long moment. The only sound was an occasional squicking as Billy jiggled his pinky repeatedly in his ear.
“So what’s the plan?” Lydia’s voice startled them all, though she appeared to be examining some notes she’d made previously and wasn’t much interested in the goings-on.
“Well, as y’all know, doomsday predictions have come and gone,” Pastor Albert began. “They were all wrong in their findings, then they shot their mouths off to the media and ended up looking like a bunch of idjits. We ain’t gonna follow that game plan, are we boys?”
The menfolk all nodded their agreement (Billy with his finger firmly in his ear) and Lydia sat, obedient and silent.
“Our decision is not to tell the media, in keeping with the scripture. ‘No man knoweth the day or the hour…’”
“But won’t we knoweth the day and hour?” Billy asked, a bit confused.
“Billy, I believe what the Lord was going after here was for us not to broadcast it. Keep it amongst ourselves, so to speak,” the Pastor said. “The dilemma here is which of our good Christian brothers and sisters we share the news with.”
The men paused again to mull that over. A voice behind them interrupted the silence.
“Why are we choosing between them?” said Lydia. “We should just share the news with all the churches in the area.”
The men smiled, just shaking their heads as the pastor spoke to his wife, who obviously was out of place amongst the menfolk who knew what was what.
“Lydia….there’s Christian, and then there’s Christian. Not all of them are right with the Lord. You know that.”
“Well, I ‘spose the Mormons oughta be left out,” said Wendell. “Bein’s how they wrote their own Bible and all.”
“Right!” said the Pastor. “And the Pentecostals. All that crazy speaking in tongues and such. It ain’t right somehow.”
“Pastor, what about the Catholics?” said Billy, changing ears now.
“Oh, they’d be right out,” Pastor Albert replied. “They worship statues.” There was a sound of affirmation among the men, complete with vigoruous nodding of heads.
“I suppose we could call the First Baptist Church.” Lydia said, helpfully.
“No. Absolutely not.” Pastor Albert was adamant. “Remember when we tried to buy that old bus off them, and they sold it to Calvary Baptist for more money? It was completely un-Christian of them. And while we’re at it, I don’t think Calvary is following in the footsteps of our savior, either, stealing that bus right out from under us.”
The rivalry between the Southern Baptists and the New Zion Abundant Lifers was legendary in its proportions. The tension began when the pastor of Calvary Baptist helped himself to a banana muffin when New Zion hosted the monthly local prayer breakfast. He had the gall to ask if the muffins were bought at Wal-Mart, as if the womenfolk at New Zion didn’t have the God-given gift of baking. To add insult to injury, the Pastor at First Baptist went and clogged up the toilet in the pastor’s private study, causing it to overflow. Pastor Albert had always harbored the secret notion that it was done on purpose.
“How about the Methodists?” Brother Wendell asked.
“They dance.” Brother Jesse finally broke his silence. “And their women wear pants. I don’t like when a woman wears pants.”
That was the biggest sentence anyone had ever heard out of Brother Jesse, so he must feel pretty strongly about it. They all nodded emphatically.
“I agree,” said Pastor Albert. “Let’s leave out any church that lets their women wear pants.”
“Or cut their hair!” added Wendell.
“Wait a minute,” said Lydia. “What if the woman’s got some kind of a need for short hair – like she’s ill or something?”
“We can be reasonable,” said the pastor. “If a woman’s got the breast cancer or whatnot, then God has ordained that her hair falls out. As long as she don’t do it herself, that’ll be fine.”
“How will we know?” asked Wendell. “What if she’s faking just so she don’t have to deal with all that hair?”
“Well…that’d be between her and the Lord,” the pastor replied. “And she wouldn’t be raptured anyhow. We’re concentrating on the church and its policies, Wendell. There’s always gonna be troublemakers.”
“I say we can’t have the Assembly of God. They play saxaphone during the musical interludes, and I’ve always felt that to be a devil’s instrument.” Billy tried to pantomime a saxophone, but that’s hard to do with your finger in your ear.
“A saxophone?” Lydia looked puzzled.
“Ol’ Slick Willy Clinton played one on national TV, didn’t he? That’s endorsement enough for me.” Billy shrugged, and went back to digging.
“So what does that leave?” asked the pastor. “The Lutherans….the Presbyterians….the Episcopalians….”
“Catholics. They’re just like a lite beer version, that’s all,” observed Wendell. “How about the Church of Christ? New Hope A.M.E.? Unitarian Universalists?”
“Universalists!” Pastor Albert made a rude noise. “They ain’t Christian! They pretend like they’re a little bit of everything, but in my book, they’re a whole lot of nothin’.” He let out a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck. “I suppose we could look into the other two. Anybody know anything about ‘em?”
They all shook their heads, or shrugged apologetically.
“The more I think on it, I wonder why we don’t know more about ‘em. Ain’t they supposed to be preachin’ the word of God to all? Witnessing to the lost of Waxahachie and beyond? Why ain’t we seen ‘em going door-to-door like we do or anywhere else when we’ve been out witnessing?” he asked. “If they ain’t willing to proclaim themselves for the Lord, then I don’t think they’re for the Lord.” There was a mumbling of agreement among the men.
Lydia pointed out the obvious. “Wait a minute. That leaves us nobody.”
“Now Lydia,” said Pastor Albert, like he was talking to a child. “That leaves us with us. The true children of God. I had a feeling it would hash out this way, as the Lord has led me down this path many times. In the end, we’re the only ones he’d choose.”
“But doesn’t the Bible say in Ephesians, ‘Speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another’?” Lydia asked.
Her husband gave her a purely patronizing smile. “Honey, the Lord wasn’t talking about our non-Christian neighbors. And we’ve just weeded all them out, haven’t we?”
“It just doesn’t seem right,” she said. “I’d think we could find at least one church that follows the Lord.”
“It ain’t just about followin’ the Lord, darlin’,” her husband pointed out. “It’s also about the path they take to get there.”
“But they get there, don’t they?” Lydia said it softly, but the challenge was unmistakable.
Pastor Albert had had enough. “Lydia,” he said warningly, “I told you that this wasn’t a place for a woman.” He turned apologetically to the other men. “You’ll have to excuse her, gentlemen. Ain’t it just like a woman to overthink these things? She’s got a soft heart, which is a good thing where the children and the elderly are concerned. Right now, we need to make the tough decisions.”
The men agreed, turning to glare at Lydia – well, all except Billy. He was staring at something on his finger, having just pulled it from his ear.
“Then I say this meeting is adjourned.” Pastor Albert stepped down from his pulpit, tucking his shirt in tighter over his belly. “Lydia, did you bring that pie with you, honey?”
“The pie wasn’t for tonight,” Lydia said, grabbing her umbrella and coat.
“What? I saw you baking it earlier. Who’s it for then?” The pastor held the door for her, as they headed for the car.
“I’ve been invited to coffee tomorrow afternoon, by Barbara, down the street.” Lydia opened the car door, slid inside and shut it. Pastor Albert raced around to the other side of the car, shaking off the rain as he slammed the door behind him, lifting his belly over the steering wheel.
“Again? You two have been nigh inseparable lately.”
“Ain’t she a Jew?”
“Yes. And she’s a lovely person.”
“I don’t like this, Lydia.”
Albert’s glare was wasted on Lydia, who was staring out the window, lost in thought.
“You ain’t gonna tell her, are you? They ain’t being raptured anyhow.”
“I know. It’s just coffee and pie. And friendship.”
“You need to be more careful with your friends,” he admonished. “The Lord says to be in the world, but not of the world, I remind you.”
Lydia smiled and nodded.
“Everything will work out, Albert. After all, the world you know is ending soon.”
About the Author
Britt DeLaney is an author and seasoned professional blogger. In addition to her novels, her work has also appeared in anthologies, magazines and feature spots on numerous online outlets. In her spare time, she writes steamy Fanfiction, watches too much Netflix and eats too many Pop-Tarts. She is currently writing her ass off.
Other Books by Britt DeLaney
Seasinger: Book Two of the Elemental Destinies
Meet the Elementals – a magical race that inhabits our world embodying the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. Kai is a “Twixter,” the half-human offspring of a water elemental, who’s learned to make his own way in our world. In addition to his magical heritage, Kai bears another gift, one that pushes him to seek out Shira, an anthropologist who has unwittingly stumbled into a mystery that the Elementals don’t want her to know about. When Shira becomes a target and motives become revealed, Kai realizes that this is bigger than the both of them. He must convince Shira to trust him despite his heritage, and show her that love is elemental – and can hit you like a tidal wave.
Windsinger: Book One of the Elemental Destinies
Meet the Elementals – a magical race that inhabits our world embodying the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. Cecy is a “Twixter,” the half-human offspring of an air elemental, who doesn’t always fit in with the rest of our world. In addition to her magical heritage, Cecy bears another gift, one which will lead her to Brad, a scientist who is studying a very strange phenomenon – one that might signal a far deeper problem and a danger to life as we know it. Together, they stumble upon a mystery that affects them both and discover that playing it safe means nothing when love and desire are in the air.
Eight Nights At Sea
Zephyr Jamieson is a devilishly handsome pirate, sailing the seas of a magical realm. He encounters a beauty named Rina, a woman with a body that sets him aflame and a secret that she cannot tell. Rina barters passage aboard Zephyr’s ship for herself and her secretive twin brother with the only thing the pirate captain appears to be interested in. Can eight nights at sea lead to more? Or will her secret tear them apart?
Sky Woman: Book One of the Seeder Saga
Miranda “Miri” Reynolds was a fun-loving college student until she found herself transplanted to another world, as part of a cure to a genetic issue that’s been plaguing the planet for over a century. After a rocky start, she’s given refuge by a family of three gorgeous and determined brothers, all of whom have their eye on the beautiful “Sky Woman.” When a secret is revealed that makes Miri a target, will the brothers of Falenua house be enough to protect her? And will Miri be able to overcome her own misgivings about their culture and find happiness – and love in – her new home?
Rain in the Moonlight: Book Two of the Seeder Saga
Ajan is a Hunter, hired to another planet by the ruler of the mountain people to find and capture the leader of an opposing faction. His plans go awry when he encounters Rain, a rebel woman from the river valley who stirs him in dangerous ways – even though she seems intent on killing him. His people are known for their high sex drives and strong, primal reactions – Ajan isn’t sure if he will he be able to control himself around Rain long enough to bring his target in. When secrets are revealed that make him question his mission, he finds himself working alongside Rain to get to the bottom of an interplanetary mystery that will change everything between them.
Changeling: Book Three of the Seeder Saga
Lizzie is an Earth girl with a past that’s a mystery, ever since an accident wiped out her memory. When she’s abducted by Indar, a handsome alien and member of the Seeder corps, she learns that her father was embroiled in an intergalactic mystery. They’ll have to work to solve a puzzle that spans time and space – that is, if they can keep their hands off each other long enough. Along the way, they’ll encounter Miri, Rain and their men – all of whom will do their part to help them figure out who is threatening mankind across the galaxy.
Auld Lang Sin
Lauren prides herself on her professionalism and has one hard rule: she won’t date someone she works with. Then Ross strolls in with a killer accent, killer abs and shoulders and wicked gleam in his eye, making her re-think all those parameters. From the office Christmas party to a steamy New Year’s Eve masquerade ball, he’s determined to wear down those defenses, and Lauren finds herself blurring lines and digging her fingers into a muscular back as the ball drops.
Lexa Bradley got the beach house when she and her husband split. The problem is, the thing needs a lot of work. She hires a contractor that can give her what she needs – in more ways than one. She soon discovers that Jake is very good with his hands and when it comes to satisfying a woman, he knows how to get the job done.
Captured By The Hunter
Drella is on the run from an arranged marriage. Her groom engages an intergalactic Hunter to track her down – and this is no ordinary Hunter. Jodan is from a race of people who have special sensory skills – skills that make him a formidable foe…and a complete force of nature when it comes to bedding women. Can he bring her back to face her wedding day despite their overwhelming attraction to each other?
Ready In Red
It’s Valentine’s Day, and a girl shouldn’t be alone with only Netflix for company. Val gets pulled out to a bar by a friend in need, only to find a hot and friendly bartender who makes her very glad she remembered to wear her matching red lingerie that morning. She’s primed and ready for a steamy night and Zach more than delivers.
Naughty Or Nice
Olivia just finished working an eleven hour retail shift on Christmas Eve, and all she wants for Christmas is to get off her aching feet – and to get off. Being single at Christmas can lead a girl to desperate measures, and when Olivia makes her wish to the Santa at the Mall, she gets fulfilled like she’s never been before. Will Santa find her naughty? Or will her Christmas turn out oh-so-nice?