Heat and Hellfire

Source (picture of flames)

Jessie shifted uncomfortably in the pew. The heat was getting to her, making her neck itch under her turtleneck. She tugged it, rubbing it back and forth on her itchy neck and pulling it out to let some air in. If only she could step outside for some air but she sat in the middle of the row, a parent on either side. She wasn’t going anywhere without a really good reason.

“Stop fidgeting, Jessie,” her mother hissed, “it’s unbecoming.”

Jessie willed herself still, turning her attention to Pastor Grey. Anything to keep her mind from the itching. It was an unfortunate mistake.

“… living in sin, every day. The Bible says if a man has sexual relations with a man, as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”

Jessie fidgeted slightly and recieved a warning look from her father.

“Homosexuality is a sin,” Pastor Grey continued, “punishable by death.” He paused for effect, “And yet in the book of Matthew, God welcomes home his lost sheep. To the sinners among us, I warn you, no matter how well you think you can hide, God sees you as you are. Repent before it’s too late. Repent and come home to God’s green pasture. Repent before your sins carry you straight to Hell!”

Did his eyes rest in her for an moment? Jessie arranged her face in what she hoped was an interested look. The church was becoming hotter. Blood was rushing in her ears and reality was slipping into something dreamlike. Please don’t let me pass out, she prayed. If I pass out they’ll know why and they’ll send me away to that horrible camp.

Sure enough, Pastor Grey had gone on to speak about conversion therapy. Jessie concentrated on her breathing and willed her heartbeat to slow. Pastor Grey was reaching a crescendo. He had to be almost done. The ringing in her ears rescinded slightly.

The congregation was standing now and Pastor Grey was striding down the aisle with a look of proud arrogance. Jessie averted her eyes as he passed. She felt her body flush with a mixture of shame and bitter hatred.

The crowd moved slowly towards the exit. Jessie followed her father towards the sunlight streaming in through the open door. The air felt fresher and her body relished the coolness of the mid-winter air as they stepped outside. Finally, she thought, it’s over.

Tomorrow she headed back to college for her final semester. One more semester and she was free. One more semester and she could live honestly, free from parental control. She wasn’t sure she would ever come home again.

At the moment, she didn’t care.

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