* New to Little River or behind in reading? Find all the previous chapters here.
Abigail rolled over, and opened her eyes in the dark. Sleep still clouded her mind. “Yeah?”
Jonathan was stretched out beside her, obviously wide awake.
Abigail pushed herself up on one elbow. “When did you get home? What time is it?”
“A couple hours ago,” Jonathan answered. “It’s about two thirty.”
“I was waiting up for you,” Abigail sounded apologetic, “but I must have fallen asleep.”
Jonathan chuckled. “You were out cold when I got home. Your face was smashed into your book, and you didn’t even wake up when I moved it or when I got in bed.”
“Sorry,” Abigail smiled in the dark, “the kids wore me out.”
Jonathan rolled toward his wife, and pulled her toward him, spooning her. Abigail snuggled into his chest, her face pressed against his bare bicep. “Why were you so late?”
“Well,” Jonathan sighed, “after the board meeting, Mike pulled me aside. He said the deacons wanted to talk to me.”
“Yeah.” Jonathan buried his face in her hair for a moment, inhaling her scent, before saying, “You were right about Tammy Hall. She was stirring up trouble.”
“Great.” Abigail groaned. “What did they say?”
“They said someone had come to Mike with concerns. Basically the same stuff Tammy told you, so I have to assume it was her. They didn’t want to say who or how many people are concerned, but they have asked me to address it in some way.”
“What does that mean?”
“I think they want me to preach a fire and brimstone sermon against homosexuality.”
“That sounds appropriate.”
Jonathan sighed. “Changing careers sounds appropriate right now.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“Do you really think it’s wrong? Being gay?”
“I’m torn,” Jonathan sounded sad…and tired.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m torn between what science has taught us…more and more it seems like the whole idea of people making a ‘choice’ to be gay is just bunk…but I can’t deny that parts of the Bible seem to condemn it.” He sighed. “I feel torn between the idea that God would punish someone for something they have no choice in and the idea that a sovereign God can do as he pleases. If He says it’s wrong and then allows people to be born that way, who am I to say He can’t? It’s his prerogative. He makes the rules.”
“Okay.” Abigail’s response was noncommittal.
“You disagree.” Jonathan didn’t pose it as a question.
“I guess I just don’t think it jives with the character of God as I know it to create someone just to punish them for the way he made them.”
“That’s assuming God made them that way and didn’t just allow some…hiccup of nature.”
“I thought we were all ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made?”
“Touché.” Jonathan couldn’t help but smile at his wife. He kissed the back of her head. “It’s so very complicated, Abby. I wish I didn’t have to address it at all. I’d rather just preach love and kindness all the time. These moral gray areas are tough. I don’t like presuming to know the mind of God.”
“I thought that was one of the perks of your trade.” The teasing tone of Abby’s voice also contained a hint of bitterness that surprised Jonathan, but he let it go.
“Maybe for some,” Jonathan conceded, “but not for me. It makes me feel like I’ve got the weight of the world bearing down on me.”
Abby turned her body to face him, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her face into the warmth of his neck. “I’m sorry, Baby. I wish I could help.”
“I just want to do what’s right in the sight of the Lord,” Jonathan said softly. “I always just want to do right. I want to be blameless. If I knew exactly the right thing to do, I would do it. I just have a hard time figuring out what the right thing is sometimes.”
Abby felt a twinge of guilt at her husband’s words. Not for the first time, she felt like her husband was a far better person than she was. Abby had managed a long time ago to shake that feeling of coming from the wrong side of the tracks she had carried in her younger years, but she knew some of her rough edges still remained. Jonathan’s innate goodness made her feel guilty. Most of the time, she wanted to be more like him in the way she responded to situations. Then something would happen…like that nasty man hurting her daughter…and her more noble aspirations flew out the window in lieu of the swift, definite answer of vigilante justice. She had to admit to herself she was much more like her brothers than her husband when push came to shove. Knowing that made Abigail feel hopeless—as if Nature and Nurture were both conspiring against her.
“Earth to Abby,” Jonathan whispered. “Did you hear anything I just said?”
“I’m listening,” Abby answered.
“I’m so thankful for you.”
Again, she felt the familiar twinge of guilt. “You know you are a much better person than me, right? You could have done a lot better.”
Jonathan shook his head, and murmured, “There isn’t better than you. You’re perfect for me.”
“I’m a terrible Pastor’s wife.”
Jonathan chuckled, “No you’re not.”
“I am,” Abigail insisted. “I don’t listen, I question everything, and I don’t like half your congregation.”
Jonathan laughed, and said, “You’re right. You’re a terrible Pastor’s wife, but you’re still perfect for me.”
©2015 Rachel Holbrook
Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in Knoxville, TN. She is the author of the syndicated serial, Little River, Volumes 1 & 2. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, *82 Review, Ink in Thirds, Akitsu Quarterly, The Avalon Literary Review, and various other literary journals. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going on literal and literary adventures with her husband and six children.