June 16th, Year 2 of the Vow
I was in Nike’s way looking over the data.
I went back to the loading floor, to help Stevo let the Slaying Six inside.
Stevo’s sister Dinah backed the van into place.
I slid the van door open to the back as Dinah stepped out from the driver’s side.
Dinah was the total opposite of her brother. Her outfit was boring. A long blue jean skirt and a yellow short sleeve blouse. She wore sneakers, not boots. Her long blonde hair was braided into the perfect fishtail that went down past her waist. She looked sweet and unthreatening. She held the vibe of a total angel. Dinah didn’t even have an edginess to her like Nike’s sisters. By her appearance, she took the Vow seriously.
Not that I’m implying the Samuelson Sisters didn’t take the honor of being a Nazarite less seriously than any other person with the same responsibility, it’s just that they weren’t sticklers for the rules. I would know, I’m married to Nike. She’s at her best when she’s around her family or around my mother, when it is just her and I, not so much.
Why the Lord permits the disobedience, I guess has to do with the free will factor we have? I’m not a theologian, but in order to raise Hera right, I know I need to know scripture better.
“Whoa, dude, not cool, you’re married to my sister now,” Leece barked in a loud whisper in my ear as I helped her out first.
Stepping onto the concrete floor of the warehouse parking garage, she squeezed my shoulder as if to physically punish me for my little sin. After all, Jesus said if a man so much looks at another woman with lust he already committed adultery in his heart, but Jesus was speaking to a bigger picture, no? If you think about something long enough, eventually you’re bound to act on it? I would never cheat on Nike, especially with her sister, but I’m human, without practicing self-control what would I do if faced with the temptation my desires lure me towards.
I didn’t mean to stare at a certain upper part of her body with lust. That was the annoying thing about a bunch of Nazarites being around each other. Normally, we were able to sense what people around us could feel, to a certain extent. Though, with nine Nazarites in a room together, that unique ability amplified quite a bit.
Blaze comes around the front of the van and slaps me on the back to greet me, enthusiastically.
“Son, it’s good to see you.” He huffs with a huge grin on his face.
Apparently, I showed moxie during my capture and he was amazed I survived my abduction by witches. I’m his new favorite son-in-law.
We wasted no time. We went back up to Stevo’s techno-nerd lab, a hub prototype for “big brother gov” for sure. And we talked strategy for hours about what to do with Jessica Landeta aka Janessa, aka Caitlin’s/Celly’s baby sister. She was already a believer. There was no need to spread the Gospel. To our knowledge, she wasn’t a witch, no need to urge her to repent. Do we use her as bait to lure Gunther (Anabella’s former lead servant/henchman) and deal with him or do we tell Jessica everything and ask if she wants to come away to safety with us, a place where the witches and demons will never come to get her, an offer of protection we really didn’t have the stock to give. Truthfully, there was no place Jessica/Janessa could hide and stay safe from the reach of darkness. The only one who could protect her, and who was probably protecting her now, was the LORD.
Blaze, as the oldest, male Modern Nazarite was lead on this operation. And I, as the only other male Modern Nazarite, was made the automatic second. When the ladies didn’t want to leave Stevo’s cave until they had a plan, Blaze put his foot down.
“Let’s eat. Let’s sleep. And after breakfast tomorrow. We’ll settle on a plan.” He said.
I supported his notion. “That’s a great plan.”
The look Nike gave me matched the hearth of fiery anger in her heart. But she knew when her father was around, he wouldn’t tolerate any disrespect or her being out of line toward authority. I am a little too used to Celly calling the big shots in a relationship, that I sometimes let Nike run the show.
Mother says I need to own my role as leader of the household, but I don’t want Nike to ever hate me. The abuse she suffered at the hands of men- I just wouldn’t ever want to go too far and become emotionally or mentally abusive to my wife. I wish father was around to provide guidance in this area, but he isn’t.
The kitchen was huge with a seemingly infinite amount of counter space. Two ovens stacked on top of each other. Two ceramic stovetops side to side. On huge block island, instead of the kitchen sink being in the center, it sat off-centered in the corner of the block, near the large banquet-like dining table booth hybrid. The table easily sat twelve people.
I sat in a chair, on the end while Blaze and Stevo slid into the boothside.
Sitting in a booth made me feel a little too confined.
While the men played Tonk, a card game I think Blaze made up, at the dining table, all seven ladies worked together to make a dinner probably too grand for nine people to eat. From flatbread pizza and fried cheese curds for starters to brisket, salmon, and a rack of lamb along with a ton of fixings to lemon and rosemary roasted potatoes, green been-asparagus-roasted red pepper mix, greek salad, and homemade dinner rolls. For dessert raspberry tarts and sopapillas. For sure an eclectic meal of sorts.
It was refreshing to have such a homey feeling again. I never had this growing up. Yes, mom cooked. Yes, my brother and I were typical brothers, bickering over trivial things in our youth. Yes, dad was there and often told us he was proud of us, but I can’t remember hanging out together in the kitchen while mom cooked and we waited for dinner.
Nike would bring over samples for us to try as they made each stage, and she frequently checked to make sure our glasses were never empty. And she helped with my hands and to explain what I didn’t understand about the game.
There was a moment she sat on my lap, helping me with my card hand in the one round I got the victory, and I felt free. The freedom I felt when I didn’t have the pressure to follow in my family’s footsteps. Back in the days when I was doing what I loved most, playing music with my mates and living the dream. Was it wrong to want that freedom again?
Dinner got served and before any of us dug into the feast, we all stood around the long table, with Blaze at the head, and we took hands and let him pray.
“Father, thank you for the food we’re about to eat to nourish our bodies. May your blessing continue to shine upon us. Thank you for the call to serve you in this capacity. Protect us as you lead us, as we venture to defeat this present darkness in our midst. In the Lord’s name, Jesus, amen.” Blaze cleared his throat and then sat down.
We followed suit and waited for him to serve himself first. Then Nike fixed my plate as Dinah fixed a plate for her brother Stevo. Blaze and Stevo wasted no time eating their food. I waited until the sisters got their plates fixed and I took my first bite when Nike could.
I’m not sure what to think about the fact that women must serve the men and let us go first when eating. It feels like a flawed interpretation of God’s plan mixed with wolfpack thinking. At my house, I’m not this strict. After prayer, we all dig in, and my father was like me too.
I know I’m also influenced by my Western World upbringing, such a mentality had a way of twisting God’s way to make it seem like the wrong way… I don’t know my point here. I guess I wonder if Nike wishes we could walk away from this life too.
“To think, if life went differently, we could have been cousins Jude,” Stevo said without swallowing his mouthful of food first.
I was confused, “How so?” I asked.
“Stevo, I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about that,” Dinah commented.
“Oops,” Stevo chuckled. Starting to choke on his food, he coughed hysterically, and once he didn’t die, he gulped down half his glass of strawberry lemonade. Acting chipper still, he went on to explain, “Your mother was arranged to marry my uncle. Our grandfathers set it up. It was supposed to be like the wedding of the century. But your mom disavowed and ran away. Rumors were she ran off with Blaze and was going to elope with him. But a year later, turns out she eloped with your father. And everyone thought your grandfather was going to pick your father Joshua for your mother, but he chose my uncle… puzzling… Do you know why?”
“Um, no… I don’t know anything about my mother’s family.” I answered.
“You don’t even know your grandfather? Next to your family line, your mother’s family line is one of the oldest Nazarite bloodlines. How could you not know that?” Stevo further questioned, shocked I was that daft about my family relations.
My mother must have had a good reason to keep Levi and me away from her father. If she ever wants to tell me, she will, but should she decide she wants her reason to die with her, it will.
“Your mother dodged a bullet really. My uncle was a bit of a whacko and turned out to be a warlock. He cheated on my aunt for years with a witch from the Vampira Coven. All our cousins followed the path of Uncle Ira and wrapped up in the very cult. You slew his only daughter, whom he had with the witch: Anabella. Gunther, which Dinah wanted me to keep secret, actually is our cousin. All his sons with the witch became VC henchmen and his sons with his wife are high-level warlocks.” Stevo explained, as if he didn’t drop a huge bomb on us.
“Dinah proposed killing Gunther?” Leece wondered how ethical that was.
Though it wasn’t that long ago, we considered having to kill Leece’s relatives if necessary. Dinah clearly put duty over feelings, while the Samuelson sisters wrestled with their feelings before they chose to honor God. Although realistically, Dinah surely warred with her emotions, we’re just seeing the end result.
“We didn’t grow up with Gunther. He was born out of wedlock, to a witch. He is not family.” Dinah said coldly. Perhaps, she felt nothing.
“What my sis means is that she will do what must be done to honor the Lord and to protect your daughter’s aunt. That’s all.” Stevo said.
The atmosphere got hard to sit in. A myriad of emotions, mostly disgust and anger, but worry and fear, with a touch of compassion and empathy jabbed at all of us. Stevo was the only one feeling bliss as he ate his food in joy.
The Samuelson Sisters talked about their families and showed pictures to each other on the phone. I thought they’d include Nike more, but they sort of ignored her. It wasn’t until I insisted on seeing the pictures and I chatted about the family, they included Nike. And the plot just got thicker. What happened between Nike and her sisters while I was gone?
Amarise showed the picture that got the biggest raves. A sonogram of her first, she was currently 12 weeks pregnant. Her and her fiance proceeded with their wedding while I was away. The sisters were a little upset she accepted this mission, but Blaze said, and I quote, “Exercise is good for pregnant women. She’s a Samuelson, and a Nazarite, her womb is the safest place for a child.”
A tearful Nike got up and fled the dining table. I don’t know if everyone else picked it up, but she swam in a sea of guilt and shame. Doing the husbandly thing, I excused myself and went after her.
I intercepted her in the corridor that led to the living quarters, outside the public restrooms.
Gently taking her hand in mine, I twirl her to face me. I push back her overgrown bangs out of her face, softly. I intentionally make slow and kind movements, treating her tenderly, to ensure I don’t trigger her. She doesn’t say anything, but swiftly embraces me and cries with her face buried in my chest. Makeup, for sure, is getting all over my shirt. I soaked up all her sorrow and a deep aching pain that felt like a thousand broken hearts.
As curious as I was, I knew she wasn’t ready to talk about why she was sobbing. Was it over her sisters treating her like an outsider? I’m definitely assuming her tears are related to the topic of pregnancy, like were we pregnant and she miscarried while I was away? Nike likes to deal with her pain in a solitary manner as much as I do, but I don’t think she would keep something like that from me. At least, I hope she wouldn’t bear that burden alone.
Once calmness started to settle in her heart, she looked me in the eyes. She braved a smile and it was evident she received some relief from a good ugly cry. Her makeup was slightly smudged, my shirt was not as bad as I thought. That waterproof stuff got better every year.
“Thank you,” she huffed faintly.
I just smiled back at her and leaned my forehead against hers. We mirrored breathing patterns, slow inhales, and exhales until we were in sync.
“I know you want to know what that was about…” She sighed, as we stayed nestled in our embrace.
“Accurate.” I said.
She kissed me gently on the lips and then swiftly let me go. She wiped her tears from her eyes as she took another deep breath.
“I’m not ready to talk about it yet.” She said.
“That’s fine.” I said back.
“No, it’s not fine!!!” I heard the voice of a dead woman say behind me.
Freaked out, I spun to look behind me. The corridor twirled and twisted as the brown and red hues of the brick and mortar turned to a faint blue-gray. Zooming at me, from a black, cloudy mist from the end of the hallway was a corpse. The dead spirit of Anabella.
Terrified, I closed my eyes, but then I started to recall what that witch did to me. Too sadistic, too unholy, too perverted, and too evil to ever share with anyone but God. Guilt exploded in my heart coupled with shame and I sank to my knees begging God to force the spirit to go away.
A rushing wind blew through the corridor. Though my eyes were closed, such a fierce light engulfed the space it felt like I was looking at the sun. A sense of holy fear in me canceled out all other feelings. When the light dissipated, I mustered the courage to check if the sight of the dead witch was gone, and she was.
In the course of my panic, Nike covered me and knelt right beside me. I knew I picked the best woman to do life with and whatever I just saw, we’d get through it together. Just like whatever breaks Nike’s heart times a thousand, we’ll tough it out together.
Everyone, but Stevo, rushed to meet us to check if we were alright. Rafael appeared too.
Blazed asked the angel, “What in the world just happened? The entire warehouse lit up like an atom bomb?
“Jude called upon the Lord and He came to rescue him,” Rafael answered.
Stevo yelled from the dining hall/kitchen, “I can’t see! [BLEEP], [BLEEP], [BLEEP] my [BLEEPING] eyesight is [BLEEPING] gone! [BLEEP]!”
“Stevo’s sight will be restored when one of you pray for him. Also, someone should tell him to not take the Lord’s name in vain.” The angel explained and recommended.
“I’ll go take care of my brother,” Dinah said.
“Wait, a minute Dinah, let’s hear why the Lord came first,” Blaze said.
I told them I saw Anabella float out of a black wormhole-like mist, that emerged from the floor, at the end of the hallway. She looked precisely as she did when I killed her. Her white hooded cloak and dress, drenched in blood, some of it hers, from the nasty gash in her abdomen. She told me things were not okay, in a scornful tone. As she lunged for me, the world got dizzy, and fear paralyzed me. I was afraid I was going to die and get dragged to hell.
Since I was confident in my salvation, I never feared death nor going to hell.
“By chance, Rafael, do you have a message from the Lord to deliver about this?” Blaze asked the stoic angel.
“It’s not necessary,” Rafael said.
“I know what happened,” Dinah answered. She had all of our attention.