This story is by Lisa Darnell and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Lucy closed the door on Joe as she was feeling an overwhelming sense of peace stirring within her. She had not realized that this whole experience with Joe had strengthened her own faith and beliefs as a Christian. How could she have known that a simple date would turn her world upside down?
It all started on Valentine’s Day. After combing through multiple profiles on a dating site, she found a guy who appeared, at least in print, to be a good Christian man. Lucy arrived at Islands Restaurant very early to make sure to get a great seat by the door. The anticipation was so intense. Lucy saw a man walk through the door of the restaurant with a long stem red rose. Figuring that it was Joe, she waved with a shaky hand. “Are you Joe?” Lucy asked nervously. “Yes, you must be Lucy?” exclaimed Joe. “Yes, I am. It’s very nice to meet you.” said Lucy getting up from the table to shake his hand. Handing the long stem red rose to Lucy, he said, “This is for you, Beautiful, Happy Valentine’s Day.” “Thank you so much.” she said as Lucy took the rose from him, there was a magnetic “pull” that drew her to him.
On their date, they talked about every subject known to man. Joe was affectionate and Lucy was drawn to him. “God is very important to me.” stated Joe. Lucy thought to herself “Maybe this is the type of guy I should be dating”, considering her track record up to this point left much to be desired. Lucy could feel the butterflies in her stomach each time Joe looked at her. When their date ended, both couldn’t wait until they could be together again.
The next day Lucy got a call from Joe. She quickly answered and was flattered to hear him say “Good morning, beautiful! I really enjoyed last night so when can we get together again?” Lucy answered in an undeniably excited tone “What about tonight?” Joe agreed readily. They agreed to meet Joe and his son at the local pizza parlor. Joe had spoken the other night that he was going through a divorce and Lucy wasn’t at all surprised to know he had a child. She was so excited about seeing him again.
Later that night, she met Joe at the restaurant and there she met his two-year old son, Johnny. She sat and watched while Joe and Johnny played games, marveling at the sight of father and son having a good time. Joe gave her details about his soon-to-be ex-wife, including he had reason to believe that she was keeping a diary about how she was going to kill him. Lucy found herself feeling sorry for Joe and Johnny. The date ended earlier than planned. Because of the difficulties between himself and his wife, Johnny would often stay with his grandmother, it was an attempt on Joe’s part to minimize the effect of the growing tension in his own home. Joe called, “Sorry for the early evening. Would love for you to come with me to church this Sunday?” “Oh, yes I will be there for sure” said Lucy.
The very next day, Lucy told Elizabeth all about Joe including the conversation about the divorce and his wife’s plans. Elizabeth was quiet for a moment before she responded “You need to be careful. It doesn’t seem like the ideal situation”. Lucy just smiled at her friend and said “I will be. I don’t want Johnny to get hurt”.
On Sunday, Lucy met Joe at church. In the distance, she saw him wave in a quick motion for her to join him. As she approached, she noticed there was something different about him but she couldn’t identify it. He introduced Lucy as his friend but beyond the introduction, he didn’t seem to pay as much attention to her. Lucy suspected it might be awkward for others who knew that Joe was married. Everyone seemed very friendly as they congregated outside the church. When services began, Lucy sat close to Joe but there was no outward demonstration of physical affection like putting his hand on her arm. Lucy was starting to second-guess Joe, wondered if he truly wanted her there. There was no reassurance. She noted the pattern was all too familiar for her with other men – after the sexual encounter, the interest died. The physical attraction was the basis each time and too much, too soon and too fast was the outcome. This left Lucy feeling empty and unworthy inside every time.
Lucy was jolted out of her thoughts about the “what if” with Joe when he suddenly said “We should get going”. Feeling a little dazed by the onset of awkward internal emotions, Joe walked her to her car and got inside. Suddenly, he made eye contact with her and blurted out “I am not sure that I can continue with this relationship. I feel so guilty that we had sex”. Lucy was confused when he said that because he had come on so strongly in the beginning and now it was as if he was having second thoughts. After a moment, Lucy asked “So, what is going to happen?” Joe’s response deepened her confusion when he said “My wife has created a situation in that I can’t trust anyone very easily so I guess we can be friends and see how it goes”. As if reading her mind, Joe leaned over and kissed her on the lips. “I will call you tonight” was his parting statement before he exited her car. Driving home, she is conflicted by her thoughts that maybe she had “misread” his intentions and the fate of the relationship was squarely in his control, just like all the others before him.
By now, it had been more than a week since they met. Their relationship had somehow gone from instant attraction physically to insanity. Lucy recalled one phone conversation she had had with Joe just recently when he shouted “My wife wants to kill me!” after she answered the phone. She shrieked in horror, “What?” but it was his next statement that sent chills down her spine. “God has called me home and he is going to take me!” Lucy screamed “Joe, what are you talking about” but her question went unanswered.
Lucy invited Joe to watch her co-worker’s band play. There were people from her work present, including her friend Elizabeth. Once they arrived at the club, Lucy introduced Joe to everyone. At first, they seemed to like him and then she noticed that he had an opinion about “everything” and seemed to rub her friends the wrong way. Lucy remained calm, hoping the discomfort would pass. Even Elizabeth remained accommodating. At first, Joe chatted about current events but then he maneuvered the conversation into “preaching” about God along with what was not right with the world.
Afterwards, as they were walking toward the parking lot, Joe’s started asking Elizabeth questions directed toward her religious beliefs. His questions were, in Elizabeth’s mind, totally inappropriate. The next day, Elizabeth told Lucy “There is something dark about this guy and I don’t like him”.
Lucy wasn’t about to tell Elizabeth that after the concert, she and Joe had gone back to her place and had become intimate. She also wasn’t about to try and explain the awkwardness she felt when Joe pulled away and suddenly demanded “Who are you seeing?” Lucy had told him “No one but you” and then was even more surprised when he remarked “Well, that’s good because I don’t want you to see anyone else. The sex is so good with you and it would piss me off if anyone else was in the picture”. At that point, Lucy just motioned for him to leave because she couldn’t explain the weird feeling that had just consumed her. After Joe left, Lucy was overcome with anxiety and confusion because Joe’s behavior didn’t make sense. Her mind was flooded with feelings of guilt because he was still a married man and had a young child. She tried to console herself with the idea that despite the drama, she at least had someone in her life and she wasn’t about to give up on him – yet.
Lucy’s emotions and spiritual beliefs were at odds with each other – she was involved with a married man who claimed to be a Christian and yet, she knew it shouldn’t be like this at all. She decided it was time to seek spiritual advice before she had a total meltdown. This was one of the moments in her life when she desperately missed her grandfather, the best example of a godly Christian in human form.
Lucy decided to reach out to her grandfather’s best friend, Father Davis. He had retired a few years past and was living in his hometown in Ireland. She sent him an email and in it, she conveyed the essence of her relationship with Joe. She described him as being a Christian but there were underlying issues and she wanted Father Davis’ advice. Lucy felt greatly relieved after writing as that it provided a “cathartic release” to be able to share her concerns with a trusted friend.
She received a response from Father Davis immediately. In his email, he stated that at times, individuals seek a relationship in which they “believe” they may have found a kindred spirit especially great when their belief systems are the same. However, he went on to state that when the situation is precarious as Lucy’s appeared to be, the veil comes off and what is revealed is the devil in human form. What made it even more frightening, Father Davis said, is that these individuals may be quite disturbed and can mask their behavior to the unsuspecting under the guise of Christianity. Once Lucy read his response, she felt the dreariness lift. Lucy was certain that she needed to end things with Joe.
Before she could formulate a plan, Joe appeared one night at her door. While smoking marijuana with him, he started talking about the history of his marriage. He told Lucy that he married his wife because she was a Canadian citizen and she was pregnant with his child. After they were married, Joe ended up getting involved with drugs. One night, Joe thought he was hallucinating, stated the devil appeared to him and was mocking him. Joe decided he needed to return to church to strengthen his ability to fight.
Lucy had a moment of clarity and could see the man before her was not at all what he pretended to be. She reasoned that if he was a “true” Christian, he would not be seeking the pleasure of another woman’s company. Her next thought propelled through her mind like a rocket and the words came tumbling out of her mouth. She said “I can’t see you anymore, Joe”. He stopped in his tracks and stared at her, too stunned to respond. Finally, he said in a low voice “Why?” Lucy retorted “This isn’t right! You are still married with another child on the way. This is not a situation that I want to be involved in any longer.” With an air of confidence in her stride, Lucy went to the front door and opened it, motioning for Joe to leave immediately. He did as she requested without a response.
She had no doubt that she had taken the only action she could to feel clean. She had realized that what she had been wanting was soul forgiveness for all her reckless dating behavior that threatened to destroy her spiritually. Joe called to see if she had changed her mind but Lucy refused to give in to temptation. She clung to her new found feeling of worthiness, certain that it was far more precious to her than anything that a relationship with a man had to offer.