Mary Ann and Sarah Lee sat at either ends of the brown leather couch with mugs of chai in hand as Mary Ann’s stereo played Hillsong. With thirty minutes before their weekly Bible study, the two women had about fifteen minutes alone before others would arrive.
“Has Robert called you back yet?” Mary Ann asked, casually sipping the steaming chai. Despite her slight Southern drawl, she had never left her hometown of Modesto except on the occasional short-term mission trip.
“No.” Sarah Lee frowned. “It’s only been a few weeks though. Maybe he’s busy.”
“Surely he can’t be too busy to call even for a moment.”
“True,” Sarah Lee admitted with a sigh. “What did I do wrong?” Mary Ann leant over and placed a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder.
“You did nothing wrong.” Mary Ann’s smile contradicted her serious tone. “He just isn’t spiritually mature.”
“True.” Sarah Lee rubbed her eyes. “He acted very strange when I discussed marriage with him.”
“He probably just wanted to hook up for the night!”
“He had the nerve to say, ‘It’s only the first date.’ Hello! I don’t date for fun! I’m looking for a serious relationship! Gosh!” She rolled her eyes and sighed.
“God has a better man in store for you. He’s just waiting for the time.”
“I know. I get lonely though.”
“When you feel lonely, just read the Bible. It’ll make everything better. God doesn’t want you to suffer. That’s why He won’t let you make the same mistakes that so many other women make. Like Jesse.” Mary Ann gnashed her teeth as she mentioned the woman’s name.
“I saw on Facebook that she and Manuel are getting married this weekend!”
“Me too! She didn’t even invite me!” Mary Ann flustered. “After all the years I mentored her into a great daughter of God, she abandons her friends and her church for some Mexican janitor she met online!” Sarah Lee gasped. “He doesn’t even go to our church!”
“Is he Catholic?” Sarah Lee gasped.
“How awful! What does she see in him?”
“I know. He doesn’t make much; he doesn’t own his own house; he’s even shorter than her!” The two friends howled in laughter.
“She must’ve been desperate!”
“She tells everybody, ‘Manuel’s like so sweet,” Mary Lee imitated a high-pitched Valley Girl, “and he like even helped pay for like my mother’s surgery. Like, that’s so tubular, like!’ Gosh!” Mary Ann rolled her eyes.
“You have to wonder how bad their relationship must be at home.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he beat her. We should pray for her.”
“Okay.” The two knelt their heads and closed their eyes.
“Dear Lord Jesus,” Mary Ann began. Her Southern drawl intensified. “Please rescue our good friend Jesse. She strays into sin away from You and her real friends. Forgive her for her sin and return her to the flock. In Your name we pray. Amen!”
“Amen!” Sarah Lee followed. Mary Ann poured more chai into her mug and checked the clock.
“Speaking of prodigal daughters, I hope Mae doesn’t bring Jeremiah again.”
“Me too. I still can’t believe he had the nerve to hug you! Doesn’t anybody take temptation seriously anymore?”
“Exactly! Worst of all, he’s corrupting Mae. I’ve known her all my life. She was always this sweet, quiet woman, but ever since she met Jeremiah, she’s become this loud, obnoxious freak. It’s so annoying!”
“I know! She laughs like a hyena!” The two friends snickered.
“He even had the gall to ask if I saw that Hangover movie. What self-respecting Christian would ever watch such filth?”
“He’s even worse than his brother!” Sarah Lee exclaimed.
“Oh, don’t get me started on Pastor John! I’m still mad about last year’s sermon.”
“Me too. So, it’s hateful if you go to the queers’ parade and preach the love of Jesus, but it’s okay for them to insult you and make rude gestures? That’s ridiculous!”
“I know. I only spoke the truth: Gays are perverts. Why is the truth so offensive?”
“These are truly the end times.”
“Our church hasn’t been the same since Pastor Ezekiel passed away,” Mary Ann lamented.
“He was the best pastor we ever had,” Sarah Lee said even though he had died when she was only six.
“I miss the good ol’ days.”
“Me too.” Sarah Lee stared at the walls, her smile withering.
“What’s wrong, Sarah?”
“I miss him.”
“William?” Mary Ann sighed. Sarah Lee nodded, rubbing at her moistening eyes. “He wasn’t good for you. I’ve already told you this.”
“Everybody loved him though,” Sarah protested.
“Yeah, because they’re just as spiritually immature as he is. Why else won’t they come to our Bible study?”
“Everybody’s too spiritually immature for us though!” Sarah’s tears trickled down her cheeks. “William loved me. He understood me. He was perfect for me.”
“The only one perfect for you is Jesus! William wasn’t a real Christian. Heck, he voted for Obama!”
“So what? I miss him! I’m tired of this shit!” Mary Ann gasped as Sarah Lee cursed. Sarah Lee gnashed her teeth as the tears flowed freely down. “I made the biggest mistake of my life, and now I’m going to be alone forever!”
“I know how you feel.” Mary Ann rested a hand on her friend’s shoulder, but Sarah Lee shrugged it off.
“Do you really?” she snapped.
“I do. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I’ve never even been kissed. Sometimes I even doubt God’s master plan for me involves a good Christian husband. But that’s all right with me, but that’s all right with me, because I have something far greater than any husband, and that’s the sweet love of Jesus! That’s all that matters in life.”
“It doesn’t feel like enough.”
“That’s because you don’t pray enough.”
“I pray two hours a day!” Sarah Lee protested.
“Well, I pray three hours a day, and believe me, God has never let me down. He might not give me a husband, but He gives me peace of mind, and that’s all I need. I could spend the rest of my years alone in this old house and as long as I have a Bible on my nightstand and Jesus in my heart, I’ll be the happiest woman in the world.”
“It’s true. In fact, I pity those poor women like Mae and Jesse. They’re not happy like you and me. They’re running from their first love. Jesus is a jealous god. That’s why you’re still single. He doesn’t want to lose you too.”
“So, I shouldn’t regret breaking up with William?”
“Listen to me, Sarah Lee.” Mary Ann stared into her friend’s eyes. “You did nothing wrong.” Silence flooded the following few seconds.
“You’re right,” Sarah Lee sniffled. “Thank you so much!”
“Oh, Mary! Thank you!” Sarah Lee wrapped her friend in a tight hug. “You are such a blessing!”
“Thank you,” Mary Ann said.
The doorbell rang. Sarah Lee wiped away the evidence of her tears as Mary Ann rose to answer the door. Before her stood a casually dressed couple with bright youthful faces that contradicted the gray in their hair. “Mae! Jeremiah! It’s so great you came!”