KYLIE

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“I like the name Gwendolyn for a girl and Murphy for a boy…” Kylie confessed with an unsure look on her face. She winced worried she’d bring up painful memories for Jon.

“I think both of those names are lovely. Papa Silas and Mom will feel honored when you share your preference, but I like Marie for a girl or Yesh a for a boy…” Jon said.

Kylie rolled her eyes wishing she could argue with him over those names. He like Marie because it’s a form of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and he likes Yesh, short for Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus. Jon believes names are prophetic statements over once’s life… that a name can help shape who you become… that’s why God changed peoples names in the Bible or said what their names should be before they were born.

Kylie stuck her nose back in her book-styled tablet. The paper-light made it similar to reading an old-fashioned paper book. And though Kylie had plenty of regular paper books to choose from in the manor, with the rare blessing to be the newest, and youngest Philosopher’s Wife, she was used to using a book-tablet for all her reading like when she grew up in a Sanctuary.

The sudden touch of Jon’s cold, large, slender hands on her bulging middle made her heart skip a beat for a moment. She closed her book-tablet, and set it in the middle of the bed. She watched Jon lay sideways on the bed, his torso facing her, while his face was fixed on the exterior of her womb. Gently, he rested his forehead and his lips moved but no sound came out. He was praying for their unborn child. She could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit flow from his hands and into the baby’s chamber. The baby began to kick and move around. Kylie giggle trying not to let the discomfort the baby gave bother her. She imagined the baby was dancing.

In Romans, the Bible says we are all born with the knowledge of God… her heart’s deepest prayer was that her baby would never forget about God. She prayed that God would lead the child to the path of eternal life.

If she knew God when she was pregnant with Bailey’s and Garrison’s daughter… she would have prayed the same… She’s so big now. She’s the 97th percentile for 7 year olds in height, She towers over all boys and girls. Kylie didn’t think her egg and Garrison’s sperm would make such a beautiful, tall, lanky kid. She worried the kid would be ugly. With the exception of Gwendolyn, the Angelcrest’s looked like the trolls that hung out under the bridge… not pretty. Kylie personally doesn’t find herself pretty, but little Taylor is the most gorgeous girl that ever lived.

Sometimes she wished Taylor could be her daughter instead of her niece… but right now, Kylie held the title of most awesome aunt in the world! As long as Kylie kept that what could go wrong.

When Jon finished praying, he used his elbows on the mattress to crawl to meet Kylie face to face.

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

“Only every chance you see me…”

“I love you,” He said as kissed Kylie on the lips.

There’s no one more she loved kissing than her husband of three amazingly sweet years. Though sometimes it was weird for her.

She remembers when they were much younger and kissing like this gave her anxiety. Where she felt tortured being treated like a girl. How when Nix would touch Lore’s breast she hated herself for being a woman and was depressed she wasn’t a man, like Nix. She would sometimes picture being the man and even though it wasn’t true, thinking that way helped her cope…

If she didn’t think like a man she may have killed herself. Because every time she had to look at her naked body, not matching how she felt on the inside, she desired death opposed to the living hell she was in… Two things kept her going in the Sanctuary… Her friendship with Nix and the chance for I.D. Synthesis.

“I love you,” Kylie said when they paused for air and she kissed him back.

Kissing Jon now made her feel every bit a woman. She felt a subtle power in being a woman- a life giver because only woman can bear and deliver children. As a woman she found peace in following Jon’s lead. She looked to him to be her guiding light and when Jon was weary and when Jon needed help, in those times she felt called to be his comfort and to be his support. Every day, she got up, she would spend time with God in her secret place, in her mind as she pretended to do her morning yoga, but then the rest of her day was spent making sure Jon got what he needed, and every need she had Jon did his best to meet it. Yes, they both failed everyday to be everything for one another, and they didn’t need each other, but they both chose to need each other.

Jon gently settled away from sucking Kylie’s face and laid on his side, holding up his head his hand on bended elbow. He lied there in his night tee and bed shorts like a total king and Kylie wanted more… if she wasn’t the size of an elephant… it was more work at this stage of pregnancy to get laid than it was worth… in her opinion… but not all women are like Kylie.

“Tomorrow, the Panel requested to see my latest Philosophy in pamphlet form… isn’t that cool?”

“No!” Kylie panicked. That meant he had to share his sources and all of it came from the Bible, using a portion is okay, but using all of it isn’t…

“Relax… whatever will be will be…”

Another topic she wanted to argue about with Jon. He could at least postpone to do something that could kill him until after the baby was born… but the Kylie thought what if one of the Philosopher’s needed to be reminded of the truth before their last breath…

She thought about the sacrifices both Gwendolyn and Murphy made for her.

GWENIE THE DEARLY BELOVED

‘I am grieved that my daughter will forever be known for supporting an ideology that spread bigotry, hatred, homophobia, and down-right judgmental thoughts and attitudes… but that doesn’t change the fact she was my daughter, dearly beloved. She was the wife of my brilliant apprentice I am honored to call son. Her laugh, her smile, her zeal of life will never be forgotten. She will forever be treasure in my heart. Her mother’s heart. Her brother’s heart. Gwendolyn Celeste Angelcrest Fenix aka Gwenie– is her own paradise fashioned by the delusion built on her faulty belief systems– and knowing she now rejoined with the deity that surrounds us, that is in us all and in all things, gives me peace of mind.’ Silas said at her for Gwenie’s eulogy.

Jon cried heavy tears the entire time. Kylie held his hand trying to be a comfort but knew she wasn’t. Gwenie was his wife for two years and he loved her deeeply. Jaya sat on the other side of Jon, rubbing his back in a circular motion.

Kylie’s mind was plagued with guilt for betraying Gwenie like Judas did to Jesus.

A few weeks before Gwenie was arrested at Taylor’s first birthday, at Garrison’s and Bailey’s home… Kylie was summoned to report to her Sanctuary for a spontaneous evaluation. At her second to last evaluation Kylie requested an extension to be an egg donor and surrogate for Bailey and Garrison. Bailey transitioned from a male to a female but still couldn’t have children. The Society agreed to stop her IDS, allow her to fulfill her duty to her family for however long it took and six months after giving birth should resume her IDS for six more months and then transition into a male like she originally desired.

Six months after giving birth, Kylie wasn’t sure about becoming male. Something about giving birth didn’t make her hate being a woman anymore.

In the last month of pregnancy, she lived with Garrison and Bailey, and one weekend they went of town didn’t time alone before becoming parents. Gwenie came over to stay with Kylie because Jon had a ton of work and he needed solace.

One night for dinner, Gwenie dragged Kylie to the Public Sector or the Sailor’s Barge… They had bomb fish and chips and then they stayed until the club hours and went to the basement and Kylie broke out crying when she was welcomed a small group of fellow believers. She no longer had to keep her faith in her mind. She could freely talk about God. She could pray out loud. For the first time, she sang a worship song about the second coming of the Lord… she didn’t want to leave.

Since that night and after giving birth, Kylie went to the basement of the Sailor’s Barge as often as she could. She took more copies of scripture than anyone else, but she never shared them. She saved them to make her own copy of the Bible.

On the day she was summoned to the Sanctuary, they had pictures of her reading a paper booklet tied together with yarn in a makeshift spin. They searched the purse she had with her and found it that booklet… as a makeshift Bible… when they asked where she got it she didn’t want to give up the Sailor’s Barge Basement… She gave up Gwenie instead, after all… she was the one who had access to a Bible and it was in her hand writing. As an offspring from the Private Level, she was one of the few people in the world who could write by hand… everyone else in the Public typed on devices or spoke into devices to create text messages and to write epapers for school.

They asked her right then and there if she believed she wanted to say yes, but she said no. When they asked why she read the pages she claimed she was curious. They asked why didn’t she report Gwenie and offer the book as evidence willingly, she honestly said she wanted to protect her best friend’s wife. Then they asked her why she wanted to be a woman after giving birth.

Kylie answered, ‘Having a child made me feel powerful… I don’t want to give that up… I want more children and if I must sacrifice my desire to be a man for that, then I can live with myself.’

New medical reports at this time shared the alarming rate of infertility. Shocking discoveries that people healthy to reproduce where giving up their ability to reproducing by becoming the opposite gender. And though some female to male people could bear child, it violated the Society’s Social Codes, so they’re started sterilizing all transgender people to make it equal across the board. If the world’s birth rate remained low, there would be no one to replace the world’s current population in the next 100 years.

Simply because Kylie proved to give a healthy offspring, she was spared punishment for breaking the Society’s number one Social Code – worshipping the One True God.

Kylie told herself Gwenie would get a slap on the wrist for being the Chief Philosopher’s Daughter and the Granddaughter of the Chief Policymaker, but it was because of her they decided to televise the stoning of One True God Followers. The Panel chose stoning as the delivery for death to honor their belief in an ancient horrid religion.

Due to the rise in believers, the Panel discussed bringing crucifixion back to scare people out of taking the risk of even thinking of believing.

Anyone who didn’t watch the stoning was arrested and stoned after Gwenie. Everyone was warned beforehand. Kylie sat in Silas’s TV Room, next to Jon, holding his hand, and she watched Gwenie get stoned by the armored lawenforcers. She stood for as along as she could, she only cried when it was unbearable. And when she couldn’t stand, she hoisted herself up on her knees, and in her final breaths on the ground, she cried the name of the Savior again and again until a stone  hit in between the eyes and caved her head in.

Jon and Kylie held each other balling together. He grieved from loss and Kylie wept from overbearing loss. She wished for death. In that moment, she wanted to stand up and say she believed, but Jon did something weird… He kissed her on the lips and then he whispered in her ear. ‘I need you… don’t leave me…’

They didn’t go on a date until two years, forty-two days, and nine hours after Gwenie’s death, but by then Jesus made it clear like Peter, Kylie was forgiven.

The day after her 24th birthday, she became Kylie Taylor Fenix… and without hearing the truth five and half years prior… she wouldn’t be a woman… and she would be on track to hell in the next life living this life as a man.

OUTSIDE THE LOUNGE

Kyl had been tormented for six months. Going through hormone treatments, to harvest eggs, and then having to handle failed implantation after failed implantation… Kyl loved his sister Bailey, but he couldn’t handle putting his dream of becoming a man for real on hold.

To blow off steam, and to relax, AND to FIND someone to HOOK up with to really let go off ALL the CRAP he FELT… he went to the Lounge. Though Kyl fished to take a pretty lady home, no one bit the bait. So Kyl got trashed. Drunker than he ever got before.

Leaving the lounge, he stumbled and nearly fell face first into the sidewalk. He caught himself on the post of a street lamp. A man met him there on that corner and helped hold him up. He looked like an old and gray Nix. And even though, him and Nix were friends again, things weren’t the same between them, and Kyl missed what he and Nix had in the Sanctuary.

‘Excuse me, have you ever heard the Gospel?’ The older man asked.

After giving some speech about Jesus, death, and resurrection and being born-again, and going to heaven instead of hell, the man asked, “Do you believe in the Gospel, Kylie?”

Suddenly, he was tackled by three armored officers. He fought back but the beat him until he fell limp unconscious. Kyl was so freaked out and confused by everything he passed out.

He woke up the next day in his bed. The officers must have brought him home.

Three weeks later, Kyl had a dream of a glamorous place. The streets were pure gold, so pure it was see-thru. There was endless light all around her and total peace. She say this man with holes in his hands and where a white robe. He was bearded and she knew who he was… the man who was God who died on a cross for her sins.

“I love you Kylie.”

Abruptly, she woke up and instantly believed the Gospel was true. She left like she needed to look in her back pants pocket and she pulled out a little piece of paper that had written on it, “God sent his only begotten Son for the salvation of the world. For whosoever believes in the Son should have eternal life…” John 3:16. The old man must have slipped it in her pocket somehow. Deep in her heart she believed in Jesus and she felt free. She no longer wanted to be Kyl. She wanted to be Kylie like her parents named her.

KYL LORE

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Three days after commencement, Kyl finally got leave. He got little panicked trying to leave the Sanctuary the first day and he feels bad that he stood Nix up. But when he was walking down the hall the first, a panic hit him heavy. Bailey always visited him growing up in the Sanctuary, would if his parents wouldn’t show up for him, and he would be all alone like Bailey was after her commencement.

For three days, he rested in a blue light room to release. He talked about his fears with a counselor. He did a lot of meditation asking spirits to guide him to peace.

He cut his hair into the male style he wanted and he selected faux eye-glasses to look smart. Chicks dig nerdy guys.

On his second attempt to leave the Sanctuary, he could feel another panic attack coming, but he pressed through fearing life in the Sanctuary more than the unknown that awaited him.

Bailey and Garrison came to pick him and took him to the Private Level to their house, though he was assigned a nice apartment on the edge of the Public Level. That’s when Bailey told Kyl about their parents. They were famous entertainers who took their lives in a double suicide when Kyl was 6 and Bailey was 12. They watched a marathon of movies their parents starred into together… they were the Society’s hottest actors and hottest celebrity couple.

Entertainers may live in the Private Level, but they only have the rights of Public Level Members. Their child must be raised in Sanctuaries but do get to return to their entertainer parents during IDS.

Kyl was never that into movie so he never realized who his parents were, but watching the movie where their parents fell in love on set, she remembered one visit from them in the Sanctuary.

LORE

Sage Lore was six years old. Hirs (here) caretaker took hirs to the Visitor’s Hall to see hirs parents. Sie (zee) was so excited! Lore’s Alma (mother) was pencil thin and looked like a walking corpse and Lore’s Animo (father) was big and bulky like a comic book superhero. Their teeth blindingly white, their skin seemingly perfect, and their clothes super pressed and fresh looking.

Lore sat in between them on a bench to a long table. All three of them used the table top like a back rest.

They spent a long time giving Lore kisses and telling sie they loved hirs. Hirs Animo sat hirs on the lap. Lore faced inward looking at hirs Animo’s face while hirs hair was braided by hirs Alma.

The time came for them to leave and hirs Animo set Lore on the ground on hirs feet. They both hugged Lore at the same time and whispered in hirs ear, ‘Believe when you hear the Gospel. Jesus loves you.’

Six people wearing clunky black outfits and black face glassy covers came and surrounded Lore’s parents. The people in black showed Mr. and Mrs. Taylor out. Lore got to visit with Bailey the next week, even though older kids did not hang out with younger ones.

Over time, Lore realized sie would never see hirs parents again, but sie knew sie would always have Nix.


Author’s Note

You may have realized everyone who got saved in this story was connected to believer in their family before them. I’m not saying only the relatives of believers get saved, but I do know God is faithful to answer prayer. If fellow believers are anything like me, I pray for my family who don’t know God personally, to know Him and I thank God for the salvation and I trust God will give them chance after chance until they die to know God.

Martyrdom turned out to be a huge theme I didn’t expect to hit on until I wrote Murphy’s section. Then this theme took over.

I know I personally don’t reflect on the fact that I could die one day for my faith in Jesus. Not that I think anyone aspires to be a martyr, but can you say you truly believe in something if you’re not willing to die for what you believe in?

This concludes I.D. Synthesis. This was originally a novel length idea that I compressed into a four part series.

I’m sure there are so many questions! Look out for some videos explaining the things not resolved in this series. Please, drop questions in the comments below or on any parts of the story and I’ll do my best to address them in my videos or by responding to your comment. Thank you for taking this journey with me and I hope you come along for the next one. Bring some friends too! Spread the word about this weird story you read online and you made you think a lot!!! Say what you want how you want to say it, I simply ask you be kind.

Thank you,

Much Love,

Bri,

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MURPHY

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Murphy Fenix doesn’t really remember his parents. The Society ran the Protected Level differently in the beginning. Murphy and his wife were apart of the first generation of Synthesizers. They lived with their parents until they were 4 years old, and then they grew up in Sanctuaries until they were 16. As fresh sweet sixteens, they underwent I.D. Synthesis being evaluated every 3 months. Then at the age 20, they selected their gender, sexual orientation, and spiritual practice.

A couple of years after he finished his IDS, the process changed over the span of 10 years. How the process works now was finalized a few years before Jon was born.

Unlike Jon, Murphy never got to see his parents. It was complete separation from their parents for the Collective of 52, believing parental bonds could influence who children decided to become. However, majority of Society members from Collective 52 suffered from severe depression and did not complete I.D. Synthesis. To date, most of the workers in Sanctuaries are from Collective 52 remaining inside a gender neutral environment.

When Murphy left the Sanctuary, he was given an occupation he had to keep secret. He would say he worked as a janitor in the Law House, located behind the wall in the Private Sector. A black car from behind the wall would come and pick him up early in the morning as the sun rose, and dropped him back off at his apartment late at night, after dark.

He remembers the first day he crossed the checkpoint of the wall and ventured into the Private Level. It was his second day amongst the Society. He just spent a wild night at the Lounge with his roommate Gabriel. At the time Murphy was attracted to men and therefore, hooked up with different bulky, manly, men every night. On his first night though, he brought home the most beautiful woman he ever saw. Her outrageous beauty and enchanting charm swayed him to spend one night with her. After that, they agreed to be friends not feeling any chemistry between them. She fast became his best friend.

Behind the wall, there are trees, grass, space from building to building, and smog-free blue skies. Everything looks pristine and presentable. The sidewalks and the streets are so clean at times it seems fake. It was that way back then and it is the same way now.

The sun fully rose and took the sky when the black car pulled up to the Philosopher’s house. Chief Philosopher Silas Angelcrest was and still is considered the wisest man when pondering the state of humanity and directing a path for humanity’s future… Silas’s father, Hugo Angelcrest, was one of the founding fathers of the Society and continues to serve as Chief Policymaker.

Silas was single at the time and lived alone. The man’s black hair went down to his shoulders. He wore beaded bracelets and a beaded necklace. That day he wore a bright red tunic with a golden dragon on it. He did not wear any shoes because he was in a season of groundedness, where his entire being needed to connect with the force in his surroundings. He claimed to feel a connection with all things, living and inanimate.

The first place Silas took Murphy was to his study and explained why Murphy was there…

‘You’re here Blanco (Murphy’s Sanctuary first name) because you tested to be a deeper thinker, connecting with the deep universal truths without being taught them. The Panel and I know you’re destined to be a part of the elect, but it is up to you to choose that path. I will take you under my wing. I will share my wealth of knowledge of wisdom with you. And if you pass your training, if the Panel accepts you, and if you choose this path, then you will become the first Philosopher from the Public Level.’ Silas said with an effeminate tone. He talked with hands whenever he got the chance. He was a very bright person. If personality could be colors, he would be the rainbow with a touch of sparkles.

They began right away. Often, Murphy would be up to his head in books for reading assignments. Murphy’s reading go so extensive that Silas would allow him to spend weeks at time in the huge manor. After a year, Silas made a room for him to stay when wanted to, which was all the time.

The remaining six months of Murphy’s I.D. Synthesis, Murphy (who then was Blanco Fenix, a caucasian, homosexual, spiritual man) confessed he was in love with Silas. And even though it was unethical they proceeded to have an affair.

Then a month before Murphy’s IDS was to be finalized, he was reading the Holy Bible for an assignment studying “The Limitations of Morality for the Stability of the Psyche”. He came across an old testament scripture.

Leviticus 18:22

22 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’ ” (NIV)

Leviticus 20:13

13 “ ‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’ ” (NIV)
Reading these scriptures infuriated Murphy. He deeply desired to tear the pages right out of the old book, but he didn’t want to risk going to prison for destroying Silas’s irreplaceable property.
He once liked Abrahamic Literature. A part of him wanted to believe in the God of the Bible, even though it was forbidden, but after reading how the God of the Bible would order his death for him being who he was… he then hated the Bible God.
He began having nightmares about a place of fire. The heat hot enough to melt his skin, yet his skin never did. He would cry in agony so intensely he gnashed his teeth, bitterly angry that no matter how much he pleaded for help, no one came to save him.
One late night, Blanco forced himself to stay awake in the study, sitting in front of the fireplace, watching a real fire burn. Silas came in to check on his pupil, his love. When Blanco told him about his nightmares, Silas responded back, ‘You’ve been reading too much ancient history about hell, hades, sheol, the place of death, or whatever you choose to call it… Fill your soul with positive things.’
When Blanco asked what hell was Silas chuckled thinking the young man was joking.
Blankly, Blanco stared at him innocently. Legitimately unaware of a mythical or religious place called hell, Blanco asked Silas to explain what the place was.
However, Silas suddenly got uncomfortable and very irritable. The corner is right eye flinched, which happened when he was frustrated. He said to Blanco, ‘It doesn’t matter. It’s not real.’ He took Blanco by the hands and pulled him off the ground. He reeled Blanco close to him and asked, ‘Come spend the rest of the night in my room.’
Taking two steps away from him, Blanco asked a random, out of nowhere question, ‘You’re never going to marry me are you?’
Snapping loudly, and annoyed to the point of spitting as hollered his consonants, ‘YOU KNOW I CANNOT MARRY YOU. YOU KNEW SNICE OUR LOVE BEGAN!’
Weeping, Blanco fled the manor and ran to the wall desperate to get as far away as he could from Silas, from the cause of broken, confused heart.
Back at his apartment. Alone in his room, he sat at the foot of his bed. All the Bible stories where God would visit them in a vision or in their dreams… Deep in his heart, Blanco wanted to encounter the God of the Bible.
When he managed to fall asleep… nothing happened that he could remember.
Like all other mornings when he didn’t spend the night with Silas, the black car came to pick him up during sun rise. This time, however, Blanco didn’t get in the vehicle. The self-driving ride stayed parked outside Blanco’s apartment complex for days. Days where Blanco sat on his knees pleading to the God of the Bible, asking if He was real.
Day by day, Blanco changed the way he dressed, the way he talked, the way he thought. He would recite portions of scripture he remembered. ‘Be still and know I AM God.’ … ‘Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, the life’… ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ … ‘No light can extinguish the darkness’ … ‘He is my shepherd, I shall not. Though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I shall fear no evil’… Day bay day, hour by hour, he began to believe these words.
He may have been held up in a white walled room, with a twin bed covered in white linens, and day and night he prayed on a cold, white tile floor, on his knees– but the more he believed the Word he felt like he was on top of a mountain peak, looking over a beautiful valley with a lake. He no longer felt alone. He felt this constant peace and an overwhelming warmth in his heart. He just knew… the God of the Bible was real.
One day, there was a knock on his door while Gabriel was at work. He had three days until his last IDS evaluation.
An old man stood in the narrow hallway and asked, ‘Are you Blanco Fenix?’
Hesitantly, Blanco nodded his head yes.
‘Have you ever heard the Gospel?’
Blanco shook his head, not because he didn’t hear that word, but because he did. He also knew, what happened when that word was spoken out loud, in any language, across the world… well, the world that remained. He shook his head wanting to protect this old man. Who was hunched over, frail looking with very wrinkly skin, and cloudy eyes.
Blanco wanted to warn the man and to tell him to go, but Blanco made contact with those cloudy eyes that once were all dark brown. The sense of pure love that emanated from them, captivated Blanco’s heart. If he remembered his father, Blanco imagined that gaze was the stare of a loving, proud, father. It was odd to miss someone you had no recollection of, but that was Blanco every day, he missed the man who was his dad, but he couldn’t remember what he looked like, or the sound of his voice.
The old man told Blanco the Gospel in the simplest form. Every person is born a sinner. That’s just the truth. Sin keeps people apart from God. Jesus, who is God- the Son of God, came as a human, born of a virgin, fathered by the Holy Spirit. At the age of 30, he started healing broken people, sick people, helping the poor and needy, feeding the hungry, taking social outcasts and giving them a new crew, and bring the dead back to life. Three years later he was put to death on a cross, naked and scared he died a shameful death charged as criminal though he was innocent. This act was taken as a perfect sacrifice by God, and in that moment God forgave every person that ever lived, was living at the time, would live. Three days later, Jesus came back to life, and forty days later ascended to heaven saying he would come back again, but with an army to destroy all that is bad and make everything good. The catch was, to be apart of this, was to believe, and to accept Jesus came and died for the sin of the world, that Jesus died for you and for me, for anyone who may believe. Once you believe in your heart and confess that Jesus is your Lord and Savior… then you are forever apart of God’s family.
Right as the old man said, ‘Murphy, do accept Jesus as your Lord and your Savior?’ the law enforcement came and violently apprehended the old man. Three armored officers tackled him to the ground dog-piling on top of him. When they stood up, the old man lied limp and twisted on the ground, laboring to breath. One officer snatched him by the foot and dragged him away across the floor. As the officer yanked the old man down the stairs, he wailed in deep pain. Blanco knew horrible torture awaited him.
The two remaining officers asked Blanco if he believed what the man said, using advanced technology to check if he was lying based on heart rate, voice pitch, basal temperature, and eye pupil dilation. The technology was built into their face masks.
Blanco could feel every drop of sweat drizzle down his forehead. His heart felt like it was beating in his throat. He was terrified to confess yes, but he felt like it would be wrong to say no. He didn’t want to lie anymore. Yet, he didn’t want to die. In that moment, he wondered if heaven was real or a state of consciousness like he was taught in the Sanctuary.
‘No,’ Blanco said.
The officer standing on Blanco’s left said, ‘His readings are on the cuff, but he’s probably shaken up by what he saw… I think he’s telling the truth.’
The other officer agreed with the once that shared the face mask scans. Then they left.
Blanco went back to his room and he looked at himself in the body mirror that hung on his door. He remembered reading a book on the Gaelic language. He remembered that Murphy means Sea Warrior… Then he wondered in his mind why God would name him Sea Warrior. Then he remember Jesus told his disciples he would make them fisher of men… God saw him. God was calling him to spread the Gospel to the Public Level. The old man, like a loving father, gave his life for Blanco Fenix… for Murphy Fenix.
Three days later, Blanco Fenix returned to the Sanctuary where he was raised. He took his last evaluation. The evaluator asked how the young man identified, he said, ‘Murphy Fenix, a caucasian, heterosexual man, who is spiritual… and I will marry Jaya Patel, the most beautiful woman in the world…’
FINDING JAYA
Seven years, a hundred and twenty-three days, fourteens hours, and sixteen minutes after his final IDS Evaluation, Murphy found Jaya in the most fated away.
He was cooking dinner for his ex-roommate Gabriel and his husband and their girlfriend when he sliced his finger open and had to be rushed to the Emergency Healing Center. As he and his grossed-out dinner friends were waiting for him to get seen by a Healer and an apprentice, when Jaya came in with a medic team bringing in some pretty battered up people.
She looked rugged, worn out, and exhausted and her hair was in a frazzled messy bun, and she wasn’t wearing any makeup, but Murphy knew it was the same beautiful woman from nine years ago, his first one night stand he ever had.
He leaped out of his seat and shout her name across the waiting room just as she was disappearing to the healing corridors. The sound of her name made her come back out into the waiting room. She stared at Murphy without a clue as to who he was…
He rushed over to her and exuberantly pleaded, ‘I know I seem like a total stranger but we do know each other. May I have permission to kiss you?’
‘No!’ She gasped fretfully taking a huge step back from him.
‘Right… creepy question… well, can we meet somewhere for coffee? I don’t drink. But we slept together – you know – had sex – nine years ago and lately, I keep thinking what would have happened if we ever went out on a date… May I take you out on a date…’
‘If we never had another night that meant I felt no chemistry with you, what makes you think that would change in nearly a decade?’
‘I’m different.’ He said gazing deeply into eyes, feeding all the chemistry he could muster in pure awe and fascination of her.
‘I prefer tea… cold tea… why don’t we meet at the Sailor’s Barge…’
THE SAILOR’S BARGE
A few days later, they met by the marina, at the Sailor’s Barge. She had iced tea, fish and chips. He got coffee and a burger with egg on it. Not only did they keep going back for every date, abstaining from sex until they were married. The Sailor’s Barge became their favorite restaurant.
Because for those who believed in the God of the Bible, during the bar hours, believers would gather in the basement, and study the world of God together, prayed together, and worshipped together. Over the years new members would come in after the bold faith of past member led the new believers there. And instead of morning the tragic loss of their martyred member, they would cling to the hope they would see them again in paradise, and thanked God for the new members to join their ranks in the battle for souls.
Two and half years ago, Jon came home to be with Jaya and Murphy. Six months ago, he left their home to get his own place. He works as a Janitor in the Law House behind the wall. He is engaged to be married to Gwendolyn Angelcrest… who meets in the basement at Sailor’s Barge twice a week. She writes new verses down from the Bible in her dad’s study and makes copies. She brings them to the basement group for members to pass out on the streets to those the Holy Spirit leads them to give scripture to.
Seeing them together makes Murphy think of him and Jaya… Jon has become the man Murphy prayed for him to be. He was never tempted with same sext attraction. He found God at a young age. And he found the right woman for him immediately after finishing IDS.
THE CALL
In the middle of the night, Murphy woke up suddenly panicked by the vision he had in his sleep, but when He prayed for strength, he found the courage to get up and to get dressed.
Jaya woke up and asked what he was doing.
He said, “I must go take care of something very important. I love you forever and beyond, Jaya.”
Gasping as fresh tears pooled in her eyes, she covered her mouth with her hands to muffle her scream. She furiously shook her head. Then she latched her arms around his neck and weeping with heavy tears.
“No, no, no, no, no, no… noooooooooooo,” she hushed just below a whisper.
“I have to go. I can’t be late.” He ripped her arms away from around his neck and he held his wife’s face in his hands and kissed her tear covered lips. As he broke away, her grief caused her to collapse on her face into the bed covers that buried her legs. She laid there bent with her upper half sandwiched with her lower half.
Murphy showed up to the spot of his vision. He waited under a street lamp, across from the popular Lounge where Synthesizers and Elects mingle in the landscape of the night scene. He wanted to see the person whose soul was worth his own life. He kept thinking about Jesus… bruised, beaten, scarred and marred hanging on a cross for him. The blood dripping from His side. He thought about Jesus drowning from the fluid in His lungs with a caved in chest. He thought about Jesus being mocked for being who was… the King of the Jews… the Messiah. Murphy thought about Him bearing the sin of the world and becoming sin all for this future moment… so that Murphy would know Him, and love Him, and to make Murphy a man willing to die so someone else may know Him… This was the heart of the Father- to give up everything one has for another with one’s own life, life being the most precious treasure one can own.
Murphy waited for his signal and once it came, he took a deep, and in his head he said, ‘Here I come Jesus! I’ll see you soon..’

 Author’s Note
As I wrote this last part of Murphy’s story… I had worship music playing and I was balling as I typed the last two paragraphs. I’m a typical American. I love my life and I want a good one. When things get rough, I act entitled and go, “Why me God?!”
But Jesus said the greatest thing one could do for their friend is to give their life for their friend.
Sure, I would die for my family, for my best friends, but would I die for someone I haven’t even met yet.
We know God is all knowing and growing up in church, I would hear sermons about God knowing everything about us and having a plan for us… which I believe is true.
But on judgement day, the Lord will either know us or He won’t. What if He doesn’t think about anyone and activates a plan for their life until they get witnessed to or someone prays for them.
Honestly, I don’t understand how God does it. I know He is good, the word says so, and I know He is love, the word says so… But I can’t understand what it is like to be perfectly just and to be perfectly holy… In my human understanding, I think it’s wrong for someone to go to hell just because they didn’t know Him. I can understand if they rejected God after hearing about Him, but what if no one ever told them about Jesus?
Maybe God has plan for that and took care of it, but there’s nothing in my Bible indicating this that I have found… so I can’t live my life based on a small margin of possibility. I must live my life on what I know the word says. The truth is Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is who the Bible says He is, and the Holy Spirit affirms that. There are no deeper truths. Jesus was not #WOKE like the New Age Movement says. Oprah is wrong about Christianity. Jesus was more than just a teacher and a good prophet. He is my Savior. He is my Lord.
I’ll confess I’ve been so ashamed to right this story. I’m afraid people will misconstrue what I’m doing here. I’m afraid of getting attacked by people who for the LBGTQI Community.
I still live in a time where I can write a story, based on a thought, and I can share my beliefs. I would rather someone gets offended hearing the truth than to adore my stories on their way to hell.
The crazy part is, from age 8 to age 20 I felt like a boy. I had dreams about dating famous actresses. Intense, visual dreams at that. And I almost thought I would be stuck being a single, lesbian Christian woman because I couldn’t find enough support in the Bible that God made a mistake when I was born a girl.
Now, I proclaim a very different narrative. I am a woman, and boy, lately I got real desires to be married to a man so pray for me y’all!
And no, I never felt judged by the church because no one knew that I struggled with gender dysphoria. I didn’t even plead with God all the time to be free. I pretended to be a man in my imaginary word, and in my made up stories… That is how I coped with a reality being stuck as a woman that tormented me day and night… Then, as I matured in Christ Jesus, I got to a point I couldn’t take it anymore… I needed to embrace my desires to pursue becoming a man or I needed God to change me.
I prayed on election night, in 2012 – deeply troubled and in a moment God set me free. Since then, I have not lusted after a woman nor have had any dreams about being intimate with women. November this year, will be my 7th year of freedom and I believe God has something really special in store, because it wasn’t until last year around this time that I actually felt like a woman… I know… it doesn’t make complete sense to me either… It took six years to restore me into who he designed me to be from birth. God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day he rested in celebration… My seventh year of freedom is going to be my year of rest and celebration!
If you identify with the LBGTQI Community or support the community. Feel free to message me and we can discuss whatever you would like.
I also believe though you’re reading this story for a reason. Someone, somewhere in the earth is praying for the eternal destination of your soul. It’s no so much about where you’re going but who you know. Past the the thorns of religion and religious people is a God who loves you and is so committed to your freedom, He asks you to do something crazy and to give your whole life to Him.
Is your life easy now? Probably not and if it is, you should be worried… This life is meant to be a battle, but it’s important to end the war on the winning side. The victors are with Jesus the Son of Man. What God would call themselves the child of humanity? In its historical context, a Son of Man in Hebrew refers to someone called by God to be the hero for people. But I like to look at it like this… Jesus would have no purpose without humanity needing redemption. The state us in our sin gave birth to his humble entrance into the world and his walk on the earth that led to Him saving us! He may be God but He wouldn’t be our God without our need of Him.
In Revelation 4, it mentions God created us for His enjoyment. Not to torture us. Satan does that. But to enjoy us as sons and daughters. Join the family today by believing Jesus died for you, rose for you, and saves you from your sin nature. Now go tell three people you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior and welcome to the family! Find a church family and use a Bible App until you get a Bible. Read the word, it’s the only sure way you can get to know God quickly.
Feel free to message me with questions and for prayer.

Melody opens the door and leaps to embrace me. Dressed to withstand the outdoors, in snow boots and a huge, ankle length jacket over her flannel pajamas, she steps outside to join me. Stuffing my hands back in coat pockets, I wish I brought my gloves today, then again no one really believed the weather man when he said it would snow after lunch today. The White Mountain usually doesn’t see snow until after Turkey Day, but this year winter came way early in mid-October.

“Thanks for coming by. I would invite you in, but it isn’t appropriate for us to be alone together.”

It’s 4:15 according to my phone. I tried to be here earlier, but there was an accident on the main road by school, traffic was backed up for over an hour and it was the only way out.

“Grab some essentials and come with me right now.”

Melody stares into the distance contemplatively. Conclusively, she crosses her arms and shakes her head no. “I’m gonna stay, Asher. I’ll be okay.”

The ambient crunching noise of car tires treading over mulch and dirt means I’m out of time. One car door slam, several rushed heavy steps, and the hum of angered breathing behind us moments later keeps me put just a little longer.

“Go inside, Melody,” Adam sternly commands. Father like son when it comes to demands.

Slowly, I turn around to face a mortal judge. A mortal judge that given the authority would kill me with a deathly glance.

“Adam, good afternoon.”

“Allow me to make this clear, you are no longer welcomed at our residence.”

“Sir, Melody is—,” Adam cuts me off giving me no room to speak.

“We will have papers drawn up relinquishing your rights to the child, so you don’t have to worry about anything. We’ll see to it that he or she gets a good home.”

“Tenor told me that Melody believes like my faith now, and—,” again, he interrupts me.

“Melody is just confused.”

“Sir,” I say and then regret it. He talks over me and hogs the attention.

“That night after she told us, I made it very clear, she wasn’t welcomed in this house if she didn’t respect our beliefs. She started packing her things. She set her cell phone, her driver’s and medical insurance cards on the table, and she was fixing to walk out the door with just a hoodie to keep her warm…” He pauses scratching the back of his neck, “She was mumbling that believing your way meant God would provide everything she and the baby would need. She wouldn’t listen to reason. She failed to remember the guidance of her religion…” Draping his head, he sighs. “I hate to say it, but that near miscarriage or that vanishing twin prevented my daughter from leaving my protection. That’s the providence of a god I serve.”

“But You can’t hold her against her will, Adam.”

Defensively, he jerks his head up and firmly aligns his gaze with mine, he states, “She is free to go whenever she wants, but if she is going to live in my house, eat my food, use my money, she is going to abide by my rules. She isn’t in school right now because the doctor prescribed bed rest. We talked it over, but when she is well enough, she will go be with my sister and her husband down in the Valley. We will place the child in adoption. The Bishop even has a few wonderful, faithful couples in mind. Then in the Fall, she will attend Brigham Young.”

Nothing can follow that up. He is in no positon to reason otherwise and for whatever reason Melody has seemingly agreed to his terms. Like I already knew, there is nothing I can do.

As I walk down the steps of the porch, Adam explains why I’m not welcomed in their home. Apparently, I’m home alone with his daughter too often, even though this is only my second offense, he is under the illusion we sneak around all the time.

Driving home I ask God why all this happening. Melody should be with me right now. If she went to all that trouble of lying in the first place, she wanted to keep her baby, and now her family won’t allow her to. She finally chooses Christ for real and now she’s trapped… I should be relieved. I should relax. I didn’t have to break up with her. I didn’t have to tell her I know she is a manipulator and a liar to her face. I’m entirely free from Melody Gartner drama in my life.

Yet, the burden on my heart for her is not lifted. Part of me wants to turn around, risk going to jail, and ask her to marry me just so has another option to leave. The other part of me realizes how dumb that would be… We’d be homeless and broke together facing the same issues she would out in the world alone.

These mixed emotions bring on tears, which blurs my sight, and therefore forces me to pull off on the side of the road to give me the chance to gather myself. I don’t even get why I’m crying. I didn’t even love Melody like that… At least I didn’t think I did. But it is true. I do love her. I care about her and I’m really scared she’ll go back to being Mormon. She doesn’t know enough about real Christianity to stay rooted in Christ. She doesn’t understand how to have dialog with God. She needs a body of believers to be her support system. She has yet to learn the power of prayer.

“Asher…”

I jerk to look in the back seat but no one is back there. I rub my eyes dry and look around outside but cars pass by on the left and the snow-kissed forest sits on the right. I check my phone to see if butt dialed anyone, but my cell isn’t on the line with anyone.

“Asher…” the same voice calls my name.

Am I crazy? Am I having a psychotic break or am I hearing the voice of God?

“I Am, Asher.”

That’s definitely a God answer. I would never call myself ‘I Am’ and that is God’s true name.

“Yes, I Lord.” I say back.

“Melody is my daughter.”

“I know.”

“Do you believe that Asher?” The LORD seems to question my honesty. He’s right, I don’t really believe Melody is totally saved. Most of her theology must still be predominantly Mormon.

The LORD adds, “I’m also Qanna. Melody is safe with me.”

“What does Kahn-Na mean?”

“Look it up. Exodus 34:14 is a good place to start. Or Google it.”

“Why can’t you just tell me? I asked you.”

The atmosphere in the car changes. My overloaded heart feels like a lightweight now. A joy sparks in my soul. I have peace and somehow, I’m certain everything will work out. I don’t know how. I certainly don’t fully understand why.

I’m so stoked I want to speed home. Treat 77 like the Audubon, but wisdom convinces me to remain a law-abiding citizen. I get back on the road, blast the worship music, and enjoy the experience of this victory in Christ that goes beyond words.

I’m genuinely worried about Melody. She hasn’t been in school for 3 days, and she hasn’t called or texted me since last Saturday. I’ve called her every chance I’ve gotten, but she didn’t pick up. Today, her phone has been disconnected. Every time I see Tenor and try to ask what is going on, he glares at me as if I’m possessed with the devil and barks that she doesn’t want to see me so leave her alone.

Rumors like wildfire spread throughout Redridge High that Melody tried to kill herself, others report she got in a bad car accident, and some say she’s bulimic getting sent to the Valley for treatment. No one knows what to believe. It’s a different story every time someone opens up their mouth to speak.

At lunch, Pernel plops in front of me, and spills the rumor from the football locker room. Apparently, Melody had to go to the hospital last Saturday night. Many reports claim she was there until Tuesday. She’s leaving for the Valley tomorrow to go stay with her aunt and finish the school year because she is having a baby out of wedlock.

Panic takes control of my heartbeat, making that muscle beat out of tune to an irregular fast pace. I can’t be caught up in this lie, if I am, my reputation will be destroyed.

“Who… who’s the father?” I gently plea to know what others are talking about.

“No one knows. Jon Hurst tried to blame you but Tenor stuck up for you. He said you were as virgin as the Savior Mother. Meaning you’d only have sex with God.”

We both wince at such horrific thought. The idea of God ever having sex with his creation is pedophile-level perverse or worse. Of course, not every Mormon believes Adam-god came down, had sex with Mary, which led to Jesus—Jehovah’s existence. Some believe very similarly to sound Christianity. Only Brigham Young followers, high up in leadership believe that about Jesus. I’m not truly certain of the consensus of Mormon Theology on Jesus Christ’s Birth.

I do know according to their website, ‘Jesus and God the Father are one in purpose but two separate beings’. Jesus the Son and God the Father are the same essence and two persons that belong to the same Godhead, which includes the Holy Spirit as the third person. By saying God and Jesus are two separate beings, there are diluting God’s identity and admitting to worshiping more than one god. Though the two concepts sound like they belong to the same school of thought they don’t.

“The ‘Eagans are talking though. Jon and Meaghan just broke up because Reagan and Teagan say that Jon is the father of Melody’s baby!” Pernel leans back laughing, covering his mouth with his hands. Then leaning back in, he pounds the wood picnic table like the tom of a drum set with a drumroll and states the obvious, “The Bishop of Pinetop is gonna be a grandpa out of wedlock!” If our peers weren’t busy gossiping too, many in the cafeteria would have heard Pernel. Clutching the edges of his tray, Pernel leans over his food, and asks me, “You’re friends with Melody. What’s the scoop?”

Realizing that Pernel isn’t a real friend, and no longer having an appetite for this mystery food, I drop my fork and make it very clear, “It’s none of our business Pernel.” Resisting the urge to throw my food on him, I pick up my tray, climb out of the picnic table, and I walk away.

After I toss my food, Tenor grabs me tightly by the shoulder, and escorts me down the hallway behind the trashcans. The nearest exit leads to the dumpster behind school.

Pointing his index finger in my face like an ice pick about to spear my eyes, he holds me by my tee at the collar, “My sister is getting treated like crap because of you!” He indirectly spits in face due to his hush-holler at me.

Pushing him away, I snap, “I didn’t do anything!”

Using his forearm, he pins me back up against the cold, tile wall. “Bullshit! She doesn’t believe like us anymore. She says the Book of Mormon is false. That everything Joseph Smith said and wrote are all lies. That the LDS President is no more a modern prophet than a pickle is… whatever that means.”

Putting my hands up in surrender, I hope he takes it as a sign that I’m no threat. I use all the self-control I must to keep my smile of joy concealed.

He lets go of me and straightens out my tee trying to smooth the wrinkles out that he made. As he brushes off my shoulders he explains, “My family is a mess.” He steps back from me and digs his hands in his pockets, staring at the scuffed tile floor. “Saturday night, after she tells us at dinner, she believes in the real Jesus Christ, we had to rush her to the ER. She had a miscarriage. A vanishing twin, or I guess triplet. I don’t know. She claims your God saved her baby and gave it back to her. We won’t know if the doctors are right or if she’s right until the baby is born and they can examine the placenta.” Gazing back up at me, he tells me, “Mom won’t be at the house at 4. Dad can’t make it home until 4:20. I’m going to the movies with my friends after school. You have 20 minutes to fix my family. To get my dad to stop being a jerk, making my mom miserable because she has to listen to him, and prevent my sister from ending up in the ER again.”

Shaking my head no, I admit, “I’m only going to support her new faith, not discourage it.”

 “I don’t care what you do, but just fix it. Abbey said you could, so just reason with my sister.” Tenor orders like he’s my boss or commanding officer.

I don’t want to go. I don’t know what I could possibly do to help. Yet, my conscience compels me to check on her. That is what a real friend would do.

I stop my alarm, expecting a text from Melody asking if I’m up. Sometimes asking whether I’m awake refers to morning, but mostly it is an inquiry if I’m up in the middle of the night. She suffers from insomnia. A dilemma I didn’t have until lately. For some reason, I partially wake up a split second before my cell screen lights up and the whole device buzzes alerting me I have a new message. Last night I slept straight through until now, and there are zero text messages from Melody.

As I’m debating between Sunday’s Best attire or dress causal my cell rings. I drag myself back over to my bed to retrieve my phone thinking it is Melody and totally not wanting to go through our morning routine. To my surprise however, Natasha is calling me, not Mel.

“You can play guitar, right?”

“Yes, I can. Not ‘Zeven’ well though.”

“It doesn’t matter. Can you play today’s set list or do I need to make some changes?”

Talking under my breath, I say the set list in order trying to recall all four songs. “All but the third song on the bridge… That progression is too tricky for me in Eb Major.”

“What about D and you sing lead?”

The cell slips out of my hand from shock, but I jerk out of it and catch my phone against my abs. I’m not ready to lead worship? Not like Zev. I can’t do it. Negative thoughts cross my mind. Fear rises I my heart and gallops to its out rhythm in my head as more negative thoughts flood my mind.

You’re ready Asher,” I feel the Lord speak to my heart. Determined to listen to God’s voice above all others, I nod my head yes. Then I remember Natasha can’t see me.

“Yes…” I say. I didn’t agree softly or firmly, just generally.

“Okay. Thank you so much, please be here at 9 am for sound check.” She says and then she hangs up.

Forget Sunday’s Best or dress casual. Jeans, black canvas shoes, Desert Streams graphic tee with my black leather vest. Lord knows I’ve been saving that outfit for the first chance I’m blessed to lead worship. I can’t think about it too much or I will psych myself out.

I arrive 15 minutes early to pray and to plea for peace to do what is asked of me today. I find Nicolette at the altar on her knees. Soft worship music by Desert Streams plays subtly in the Youth Sanctuary. Nicolette and I eerily dressed similarly. We have the same gray, blue, and black color scheme. I wonder if the rest of the team is dressed the same? That will be weird if we are, especially since none us discussed color coordinating today.

Put the guitar onstage. I think. As I do this I pray in the Spirit and a soothing peace sweeps over me. I put my electric acoustic guitar on the stand where Zev usually keeps his. Tash didn’t tell me to bring my guitar, I just felt I should since Zev got upset the last time I touched his guitar. I place my case in the closet on stage left, where we keep extra music stands, mike stands, and extra sound equipment and instrument pieces. I set my case on top of mangled chords, piled in a black plastic milk crate.

Offstage, at the base of the stairs, I get on my knees to pray, when I hear Pastor Chastity’s voice from behind me.

“I’m glad you and Nicolette came early.”

I stand back up, turn around and Nicolette comes alongside me to face our Youth Pastor. She seems a little heavy-hearted with something troubling her mind. Her droopy eyes paired with her downcast countenance says it all.

“Until further notice, the two of you will be leading our youth worship team. Natasha and Zeven were asked to step down this morning.”

What? This can’t be good. I begin to think the worst because it’s natural. With Natasha coming from the home of a teen mother, her odds of repeating the family curse is higher than other teen girls. And living on the Reservation where teen pregnancy occurs at an alarming high rate. Yes, I always wanted to lead worship, but not like this, not at the expense of someone else’s virtue.

“Will you be telling the rest of the team or will we?” Nicolette asks.

“How about after church? We’ll meet briefly. I’ll have Natasha and Zeven sit in with us and we’re going to go over the criteria for serving in ministry again.”

“Yes, Pastor.” I agree biting my lip. I try to quiet my worst-case-scenario thoughts, but they won’t quit.

Pastor Chastity leaves toward the prayer room and when she is far out of earshot, Nicolette whispers out loud what I’ve been thinking.

“I knew they were doing it! Do you think she’s pregnant?”

“That could be why Pastor Chastity is so sad… I’m sure the last thing she wanted was Tash to follow in her footsteps like that.” Now I feel worse for saying something out loud. This is borderline gossip. We aren’t certain if what we’re thinking is true. “Wait, how do you know they’re having sex or they had sex?” I ask Nicolette.

She looks over her shoulder to make sure Pastor Chastity is out of the sanctuary. She looks around and spotting Chlonelle in the sound booth, she leans in close to my left ear. She softly whispers, “That fight they had in September. Aden said he heard Zev at school talking to his buddies about going to Third Base with their girlfriends. Zev said he and Tash did all the time. He was working his way to Homeplate by homecoming.”

The front doors swing open and Wilma and Aden walk in. Nicolette walks past me and adds, “It’s so disappointing. No one ever seems to make out of here.”

I don’t even understand all the sexual connotations implied in the baseball plate metaphor. Homeplate would be sex all the way though, right? Zev better join the adults today for worship. If I see him, I will deck him… Okay, I won’t. I’ll do what most Christians will do. Stare at him with seething anger and monumental disappointment, which will equal the unveiling of pure disdain for the boy who stole my dream girl. Big fat, giant lesson learned, and huge, greatly important note to self: DON’T LET THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT STOP YOU FROM TRYING FROM GETTING WHAT COULD BE THE NEXT BEST THING IN YOUR LIFE.

Suddenly, my peace evaporates and restlessness forms in my core like raging seas. Guilt hits me heavy in the heart. I cannot not go onstage and lead worship like this… I can’t let Nicolette either.

Approaching Nicolette and the rest of the band, I overhear them gossip-guessing what is going on with Tash and Zev and why they aren’t singing. Filled with a little righteous indignation and I throw words to proudly monkey wrench this conversation, “Maybe none of us should lead worship today and make the entire Youth Group join the adults in the Main Worship Service?”

“What are you talking about?” Nicolette questions?

“We have no idea why Tash and Zev were asked to step down. We can guess all we want, but until we’re told or the Holy Spirit tells us, and even then, the last thing we need to do is talk about it. In fact, we shouldn’t be murmuring about them. We need to be praying for them. I’ll admit, I gave in to the gossip monster too, but Tash and Zev are family…”

“Good point, Bro.”  Aden says.

I hold out my hands before me, one towards Nicolette on my left and one towards Wilma on my right. “Pray with me.”

The ladies take my hands and include Aden and Chlonelle. We bow our heads and close our eyes together. Nicolette leads us in a prayer of repentance for our gossip. Aden then begins to intercede for Zev and issues with lust. When he finishes Chlonelle prays for Tash about peer pressure and following the crowd. Wilma sings over our prayers with a song of praise. I close in prayer thanking God for the cleansing blood of Christ that purifies. I pray that we all have clear hearts and clean hands so the we may ascend the hilltop of God and receives all His promises. I pray for our worship to be pure and true, in Spirit and in Truth.

Together we say, “Amen.”

We release each other’s hands and we lift our heads opening our eyes. Pastor Chastity stands right behind me. With tears in her eyes and a feeble smile on her face, she hugs me. She whispers a thank you in my ears. She ends up hugging everyone, saying thank you and thank you again, to all of us. Chlonelle offers Pastor Chastity tissue paper to dry her tears, and as Pastor does so, she asks if we would be okay with cancelling the entire Youth Service and joining the Main Service today. The band looks around at one another with hesitation. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed, angry, sad, or happy. And I’m confused, I thought God said I was ready to lead worship today.

“Pastor Josiah has requested that the Youth Worship Team lead worship for everyone today.”

I titter, freaked out and excited simultaneously. God cannot lie. He is not a man that he should change his mind. Will his word not do what he says it will do? When he makes a promise, does he not keep it? My GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD! Somehow now, I know I’m ready.

All eyes are on me as if I’m the official authority on making this call today. I start nodding my head yes and the rest of band starts speaking yeah as if they’re expressing their approval with a ‘hell yeah’!

Two minutes to 10 am, we take our place. The church worship team sits upfront next to the Pastor and his wife. I go over the set list in my mind when the Holy Spirit lays on my heart to start off with Our God is an Awesome God by Rich Mullins. I tell Aden, who tells Wilma on bass. I whisper it to Nicolette and right at 10 am we intro with a classic oldie worship song. Ready for God to show up and show off!

         Dad had repairs to oversee at the church. For once, I need my father both as a parent and as a pastor. I go inside through the unlocked side door and I follow the noise echoing through the empty dark halls. Dad and Elder Cain Blair are in the men’s room replacing the piping underneath the sinks. Immediately, Dad instructs Elder Cain to keep working and escorts me to his office.

            To endure the trek, he makes small talk with me.

            “We’re blessed God provided the means for these repairs. I’m tired of soaking wet floors, holy walls, and torn up carpet.”

            “God is good.” I say, still analyzing in my mind the best way to bring everything up to dad and to get some direction.

            Chuckling softly, dad says, “All the time…”

            Sure that’s only half the saying but when you grow up in church, Christianese gets old and boring quickly.

            Dad sits down in his brown leather, swivel chair behind his dark mahogany desk. The wall behind him sporting his credentials and awards over the years. I sit across from him, in a simple, armless green sanctuary chair, wide and sturdy enough to hold all sizes. To postpone the burden, I’m about to place on dad, I ask where Pastor Josiah is. Dad says the board decided he would handle maintenance needs for the church since Pastor Josiah holds many other responsibilities.

            “Enough with the chit-chat, what’s troubling you?”

            I want to cry, but the strength to fend off that urge sustains my plain countenance.

            “Melody Gartner−,” I go to explain, but dad chimes in.

            “The girl you bring to youth group sometimes?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            Dad chortles, “Son, I’m your father first and a pastor to you second. Drop the sir. Call me dad. What about Melody?”

            “She’s my girlfriend.” I say.

            The shock on his face could stop time with his wide-eye stare and slight agape mouth. I know my parents believe I’d follow in their footsteps and not date until college. My dad did a lot of research on youth dating and majority of the data reflects more negatives than positives.

            Taking a very deep breath, as I exhale I confess, “And she’s pregnant.”

            That knowledge causes his face to fall into the palm of his hand as a feeble attempt to hide his broken heart.

            “She also wants to get married.”

            Sighing as he wipes his face lifting his head, “When did it happen?”

            I knew the it inquiry referred to the night of conception.

            “She says the night of the homecoming dance…” Relief rushes over me. I used to think back on that night a feel ashamed, now I no longer do.

            “You’re not so sure?”

            I shake my head. Everything about her and me makes me completely uncertain. “No.” I say, but I explain, “Before I came here I was spending time with the Lord… I felt so guilty… I regretted going to that dance, I regretted becoming Mel’s boyfriend, and I deeply regretted creating that baby… I thought if I never went to that dance the kid wouldn’t exist and as clear as day the Holy Spirit told me that the baby would. If I never slept with Mel, she wouldn’t be my girlfriend. I would have never slept with her, if the punch wasn’t spiked, and−,” dad holds his hand up to stop me from talking.

            “Are you sure you had sex with Melody? If you were drunk, do you remember that night?” Dad asks a justifiable question.

            “The last I remember is getting in the passenger seat of my car…I felt so weird I just wanted to sleep it off…”

            “How far along is she according to the doctor?” Dad asks a good question. “If it happened the night of the homecoming dance she’d be about 5 or 6 weeks”

            “The dance was a month ago?” I say.

            “Maybe you should take that sex ed class at school. Son, women are pregnant before they get pregnant. That’s just how the doctors count.”

            Silence rises between us and creates a giant of awkwardness. It didn’t really matter how far along Melody is in her pregnancy. Dad and I had a mutually strong feeling the baby isn’t mine. When I muster the courage to speak up, dad beats me to it.

            “Let me see if I understand why you’re dating her… You took her to homecoming, to be nice. Then you thought you lost your virginity to her, so you asked her to be your girlfriend?”

            I just nod my head yes feeling a little embarrassed.

            “Why do you think you did that?”

            The horrid sensation of my masculinity dissolving as I think of the real reason why, I slouch crossing my arms over my chest as if this position could protect how I feel inside… Sighing I confess, “I’m gonna sound like a girl if I tell you.”

            “No, you’ll sound like my son. It’s just you and me.” Dad says.

            “I want to wait or at least I wanted to wait until I’m married to have sex… Any kind of sex…” I shift forward and dangle my arms from my bent kneecaps. Scratching my head, I try to feel less exposed then I do right now. Why does guilt rack my heart with trouble when I’m just being honest? I go on to say, “I want to be like you and mom. You two waited until you met ‘the one’. And—,” before I could go any further, dad bursts into laughter.

            “What?” I ask.

            Cupping his mouth, he takes a deep breath. Shaking his head, he removes his hand and grabs a push pen from his desk. He presses the button again and again, and makes the pen click again and again as the ballpoint tip plays hide and go seek according to his actions.

            “What makes you think I was a virgin when I married your mom? I never stated that and I hope I didn’t imply that.”

            “You and mom both said several times you waited to sleep together until you married each other.”

            Dad raises his eyebrows, stops clicking the pen and sets it down as he looks me in the eyes. He says, “Yes, we said that… So I guess I see where you get that concept from, but I had a few girlfriends before your mother. One reason why I allowed your mother to leave that bookstore without saying anything to her, is because I was in a long distant relationship with my high school sweetheart. She went to Liberty University. We did a lot of fooling around. The girlfriend before her is who I lost my virginity to. We were both so scared that she could have been pregnant… Luckily, she wasn’t… And before that girl, I fooled around girls all the time at church camp since 7th grade. I actually got caught in 9th grade making out in the boys’ bathroom with the hottest girt at camp. And what we did is not safe for your ears to hear.”

            Dad gets real. He divulges the first time his eyes set sight on a dirty magazine when he was 11 years old. He admits that fantasizing and fondling himself wasn’t enough. He got the real chance to kiss a girl and explore the sensations of raging hormones. He added his middle school peers only inspired him with ways to explore the sexual desires within him without getting caught. In high school, his guy friends made it seem like a man was gay if he wasn’t having sex. For a long time, dad just flirted with girls on campus and went out on dates, and he allowed his friends to think what they wanted. However, it was different when he got a girlfriend. Making out and groping stories wasn’t enough to prove dad was a man. The pressure to prove his masculinity made him convince his girlfriend to have sex.

            When I asked dad, what about church and God, wondering if he felt guilty? He said he wasn’t serious about his faith. He added his church just preached on burning in hell a lot. If you weren’t a drunk, a homosexual, or an adulterer… no one feared going to hades. His church growing up taught him how to be a church goer not a Christian.

             His high school sweetheart, who was a different girl than who he lost his virginity to, was the girl who introduced him to the concept of a relationship with Jesus. They were never alone together. The only places she’d go out with him were to bible study, Sunday School, church, and church fellowship events. They would talk over the phone about the bible and he listened to what Jesus put on her heart. He wasn’t sure why he dated her for so long. He thinks it may have been because a few of his guy buddies were getting in trouble having sex. One caught Chlamydia, one got a girl pregnant, and the other got accused of rape, but was acquitted. All of them knew their friend was guilty, for he had no respect for women and was a very troubled young man.

           Dad planned on marrying the Liberty University girl, but that changed on their third-year-anniversary. She flew out to Tennessee and visited him at Belmont University. He was excited to see her. They went and grabbed coffee off campus and she explained this dream she had to dad. At the end of telling him about it, she confessed the dream made her realize she wasn’t in love with dad and didn’t think it would be a good idea to be together anymore. Simply because God was leading them both in separate directions and dad didn’t disagree with her. The break up lifted a weight off his shoulders and he felt free. He told himself when he saw mom next, he would talk to her. Liberty University girl left as mom walked into the café. The rest I know.

            “Looking back on things now, she showed me what it was like to personally know God. It was the process of growing closer to him, I thought about sex less, so I fed those desires less, and eventually, I didn’t think about sex again until your mom and I got serious. Then I had to practice self-control. It really boils down to where your mind is at, when you want God’s will more than anything else, because you trust God understanding that He knows what is best for you and that He loves you…”

Sunday night, at dinner, when I planned to ask mom and dad if I could go to homecoming, before I told them I promised to take Melody, mom and dad sprung some surprising news on Abbey and me. Since mom didn’t have school on Friday, because of the parade in Whiteriver, she and dad were going to their friends’ wedding rehearsal that evening in Phoenix. They would be there Saturday for the happy nuptial ceremony, and then either late Saturday night or way early Sunday morning they’d travel home and be to church by 10 am. Since we don’t have school on Fridays (something new the school is trying this year), they figure they can leave Annika with us and we would share the responsibility of looking after her. It’s an ingenious parenting strategy. We can’t have guests over, or throw a wild party if we have to take care of a 16 month old. Well, now I have a legitimate excuse to bail on Melody. I have to babysit my little sisters. Let’s face it, as being the oldest child; I will mainly be responsible for the household while the parental units are away.

Miss Combs, Lexi we usually call her, will check in on us around dinner time on Friday and around breakfast time on Saturday. She lives three doors down from us. She teaches second grade at Whiteriver Elementary, where my mother teaches fourth grade. Dad hasn’t gotten a teaching job here, even though the district could probably use him. Right now, he’s just serving as the assistant pastor at the church. Dad says God is teaching him to rely on Jehovah Jireh. So far, it’s not bad. We have a roof over our head, we have food on the table, and we get gifts for birthdays. God is providing just fine… perhaps more than fine.

I decided this morning, the first chance I get, I’ll break the news gently to Melody in person. The second I put the car in park, Abbey pops open her passenger door and springs out of the car. She doesn’t even say goodbye. She slams the door and in the rear view mirror I see her take off running. That can’t be good. Clearly, she has something sneaky in store, and I have a gut-wrenching feeling it’s related to the homecoming dance.

Walking across the parking lot, I noticed Melody in the distance arguing with her best friend Meaghan. I’m too far away to hear what the conflict is about. Melody’s in full fledge tears holding a single red rose as Meaghan hollers at her with a scowling face. Melody, in a begging manner, tries to hand Meaghan the rose, but Meaghan smacks the offer away causing the rose to fall onto the ground. Meaghan looks for it on the ground only to stomp on it. After yelling one last time in Melody’s face, Meaghan storms off without looking back at her friend once.

Melody flails her back against the huge black pickup truck I’ve seen her drive often to campus. Cupping her face with her hands, she wails in sorrow crying over her dispute with her friend, if they’re still friends at all.

She doesn’t notice me. I could keep on walking and maybe break my bad news to her tomorrow. I take one foot forward and the thought: Love her like Christ loves me came to mind again. Ugh! I don’t want to love Melody! I don’t even really want to be her friend. Because I’m tired of listening to her beliefs when she won’t sit and listen to mine. She just hums in agreement and nods condescendingly, with her ears closed and her eyes covered with blinders. Me on the other hand, like when Colton talked about the LDS church, I listen. I listen enough to allow doubt to creep into my soul. But after every time, God reassures me of truth, and then my heart breaks… I just want her to experience completeness in Christ… not the illusion of completeness in Christ.

I cautiously trek over to Melody. Seeing me causes her to latch onto me, and sob into the fabric of my green cotton, button-up shirt. Again, embracing her feels impeccably uncomfortable. Rub her back or don’t rub her back? When I finally decide to rub her back, she releases me from our embrace as she wipes the running mascara from her eyes. I thought they made waterproof mascara now? She looks at my chest, near my left shoulder, where she happened to be crying and she pouts her bottom lip.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I look down and sure enough there’s a black, blotchy, spotty area of gunk on my forest green shirt. Luckily for her, I’m wearing a white undershirt.

“It’s okay.” I say, unbuttoning my shirt. I take it off, bundle it up, and stuff it in my backpack.

“You’re a real friend,” she pauses to sniffle, “You know that?”

Am I really? If she knew my thoughts she’d know I’m not really a friend of hers. I’m more likely a man on a mission doing what God told me to do.

As I suspected, she pulls a white handkerchief out the back pocket of her ocean blue, form fitting jeans. She finishes wiping her eyes and then she blows her nose. She folds up the handkerchief and stuffs it in her back pocket. That’s even grosser than when she wiped Annika’s nose.

“Could you walk me to class? I don’t want to be alone right now.”

How could I refuse her? We stop at her locker, before walking to her 1st period class. We both look down the end of the hall when we hear a group of people laugh. Jon Hurst, the QB and most popular guy in school (is that not textbook cliché?), is escorting Meaghan Holmes down the hall with their elbows locked together. Her brother, Charley, and Zander walk behind alongside Teagan and Reagan. Keegan trails the back with Tenor. Jon’s about my height, 6’5”, and his black hair isn’t as curly as mine. It’s more of a wavy quality than curly… in my opinion, its guy hair, while mine is total chick hair. His eyes are droopier than mine, but that’s probably a good thing. The vibrant hue of his blue-green eyes is eerily creepy. The more closed his eyelids are, the better chance not see the hue. Being an athlete he’s built with a sleek muscle tone. And for a white boy, he’s got a dark complexion, but at least it’s not blotchy. He looks complete… a look I wouldn’t mind having.

As they walk past us, something surprising happens. Jon doesn’t glance at Melody once. That’s a first. Since I went to Redridge, Melody and Jon ogled each other every chance they got. Melody’s doing her best to avoid eye contact with him too. The entire group ignores Melody and me… No glances from Charley or Zander? What’s going on? I have a feeling that fight between Meaghan and Melody was monumentally serious and it looks like Meaghan won. I’m MAJORALLY glad I’m not a girl. Girls are mean.

Melody begins tearing up as she grabs what she needs out of her locker. Not being able to hold it together, she tosses her books and binder into my arms as she darts off to the nearest ladies room. Okay… now I’m full of curiosity itching to know what’s going on or what exactly took place to exile Melody from her beloved, chain link group. What could turn brother against sister? Best friend against best friend? Admirer against admirer?

Since I’m a student that’s never late to class, I figure I can handle the consequences just once. Melody looks like she could really use a friend right now. I might as well come to terms with it. Melody and I are friends, because by the looks of it, I’m going to be her only friend for a while.

A few minutes after first bell, Melody emerges from the bathroom. She looks like she just lost her breakfast to the porcelain throne seeing that she’s three flesh tones lighter and pretty ghostly looking. If I was a Ferris Bueller type of boy, I’d say let’s blow school off and go gallivanting around town, but I’m not. Wrapping her under the wing of my one armed embrace, I nudge her to walk with me.

“Maybe we’ll go off campus for lunch?” I say. In my cheesiest, raspiest, machismo voice I add, “Queiro Taco Bell.”

By a small miracle, it gets Melody to breathe one laugh. Who knew I could be funny? The second bell rings when we get to her class. I’ll be late to mine but at least she’s on time to hers.

We didn’t go off campus for lunch, because I couldn’t find her. I ate with Pernel and he gave me all the juicy details traveling through the grapevine. Apparently, Charley and Melody were dating, but they weren’t public yet because they were taking it slow. But Melody confessed to either Teagan or Keegan that she’s not over Jon. I guess her and Jon dated as well for years. From Freshman Year to Junior Year, they broke up a year ago because they were just tired of the drama between them. Since the beginning of July, Meaghan’s been dating Jon, and that’s been very public. Meaghan asked Melody if it was okay to go out with him and everything. Melody swore she was so over him.

Yesterday, after church, Meaghan caught Jon and Melody kissing in his red truck. Jon claims they were just talking and Melody kissed him out of nowhere. Whether that’s true or not, Meaghan took her boyfriend’s side. So this morning, the disaster I witnessed in the parking lot was Meaghan ordering Melody to stay away from Jon, Charley, and all their friends. If she bothered any of them, Meaghan would tell Melody’s parents something that would break their hearts. I asked what that something was, but Pernel didn’t know.

Abbey texts me that she’s going to the movies with a group of friends and that someone will give her a ride home after school. She claims she called and asked dad… I hardly believe it, but it’s her that has to answer to our parents if she didn’t ask for dad’s permission. Exiting school, I see Melody at the pick-up and drop off curb arguing with someone on her cellphone.

“Today’s my day to have the truck! How am I supposed to get home?”

By the sounds of it, she’s arguing with Tenor. He went all grand theft auto and hijacked the truck from his sister… Normally, I would laugh about this, but she’s having a really rotten day.

Angrily, and patronizingly, Melody barks, “I love you too Tenor,” and then she hangs up on him. Without thinking, she chucks her phone against the nearest redbrick school wall. On impact, the case pops off, the back falls off causing the battery to fall out, and the screen cracks as it flops to the concrete ground. Just looking at her phone in pieces on the ground, her face tears up as she breaks down crying. Clearly, she’s PMS-ing. How else could she go to blazing angry to weeping willow sad? Continuing her song of sobbing, I pick up her phone and put it back together as best as I can. It takes a moment, a moment longer than it should, for it to turn on. It will definitely be hard to check her text messages, but I think she can manage calls.

I place her cellphone in her hand as I again sweep her into a sideways embrace. I don’t even ask. I guide her across the parking lot to the car, and open the passenger door for her.

Shocked by my kindness, she questions, “Are you sure?”

“Not quite. I’m not sure where you live, but it will be a good practice run for Saturday night.”

Flashing me a weak, feeble appeasing grin, she gets into the car. Once I’m buckled in and I have the engine going, she says, “About Saturday night…”

“No. I’m not letting you cancel. You can’t let those… let’s not be mean and call them what they are… you can’t let them win and keep you down. You wanted to go to homecoming, now you got a date, so we’re going to homecoming… and you’re gonna like it!” I say.

My pep talk seems to assuage Melody a bit. She nods her head as I back up.